The Child Victims Act of 2023 does not affect the reporting of child sexual abuse. The requirements stay the same as before the passing of the Act.
What Are the Laws Regarding the Reporting of Child Sexual Abuse in Maryland?
All adults in Maryland must report possible sexual abuse or other potential crimes committed against a child in that state. Certain adults must follow specific rules when doing so because they are mandatory reporters under the law. This includes teachers, school workers, doctors, other health practitioners, police officers, and others.
While the passage of the Child Victims Act of 2023 does not change that, it could open the possibility of previous sexual abuse cases and allow survivors to hold their abusers and the institutions where the abuse occurred accountable. Mandatory reporters could play a role in bringing these cases to light.
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When Do Mandatory Reporters Need to Report Child Sexual Abuse in Maryland?
Anytime an adult suspects a child has endured abuse or neglect, they should report their suspicions to their employer, the police, or another agency that handles these cases. Mandatory reporters should follow their employer’s established rules or discuss their next steps with their Human Resources department. If they believe the child is in immediate danger, contacting the local police is often the best option.
However, what happens if the abuse occurred in the past? What if an adult reports being subject to sexual abuse as a child? According to a 1993 opinion from the Maryland Attorney General’s office, mandatory reports must follow the same protocol.
This opinion makes it clear that the only way the law can protect vulnerable children is by being aware of as many cases and abusers as possible. When an adult reports being abused by a particular party or in a particular institution as a child, there could be current child sex abuse victims, too.
Reporting Past Abuse Could Help Current Abuse Victims
The Child Victims Act of 2023 allows more adults who experienced sexual abuse as children to hold the institutions liable for the abuse. Those whose abuse becomes known through these cases could protect others, too.
For example, an adult who reports a clergy member sexually abused them in Baltimore in 1998 might trigger an investigation that helps a teenager enduring the same type of child sex abuse from the same perpetrator in another Maryland archdiocese today.
At the same time, the adult survivor can build a case and possibly hold the Archdiocese of Baltimore legally accountable, getting justice in his or her case.
What Changes Does the Child Victims Act of 2023 Make for Child Sex Abuse Survivors?
The Child Victims Act of 2023 gives many child sex abuse survivors more options for seeking justice and holding those responsible for their abuse accountable. It does this in several key ways. This includes:
It Defines Child Sex Abuse in Maryland
The new law redefines what Maryland law considers “sexual abuse.” When it comes to civil actions, those who “allow or encourage a child to engage in” activities of a sexual nature are also liable. This makes it easier for survivors to hold institutions, such as churches and schools, legally responsible for the abuse they endured.
It Eliminates the Maryland Statute of Limitations for Child Sex Abuse Lawsuits
Since 1997, adult survivors of child sex abuse in Maryland have generally had up to 20 years after their 18th birthday to file a civil case against those who perpetrated their abuse or allowed it to occur. This effectively set the deadline for many of these cases at their 38th birthday.
The Child Victims Act of 2023 eliminates the statute of limitations entirely, erasing the deadline on these cases.
It Allows Many to Sue Retroactively
A law was passed in 2017 that extended the filing window to 20 years after a survivor’s 18th birthday. Before the passage of the 2017 law, adult survivors of childhood sex abuse only had a short period—a few years—after turning 18 to act. However, the filing window did not apply retroactively. This prevented many from being able to hold the liable parties accountable.
The Child Victims Act of 2023 applies retroactively. Many survivors whose time ran out to sue previously can now take civil action regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.
It Increases the Caps on Financial Recoveries
The Child Victims Act of 2023 increases the caps on how much survivors can recover in a civil case against an institution, whether private or a government entity. This change recognizes that survivors live with emotional distress and other psychological effects of child sex abuse.
Under the new law, survivors may be able to recover up to:
- $1.5 million per case for non-economic damages (pain and suffering) from private institutions, such as churches or organizations
- $890,000 per claim from government agencies, such as school districts
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What Led to the Passage of the Child Victims Act of 2023?
In April 2023, the Maryland Attorney General released a report about child sex abuse claims within the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The four-year investigation uncovered more than 150 clergy members and other trusted adults who likely abused children under the archdiocese’s oversight. This abuse could have affected as many as 600 children and teens.
While this in-depth report on Baltimore clergy abuse was not the only factor that made it the right time for a bipartisan effort to pass these changes, it likely played a significant role.
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What Should I Do If I Have a Baltimore Clergy Child Sex Abuse Case?
If you endured sexual abuse as a child, you could have another opportunity to hold liable parties legally accountable. You could have a case for compensation and receive justice through a payout to recover money for:
- Past and present medical care, including mental health care costs
- Past and present loss of income or reduced ability to work
- Past and present emotional distress and other non-economic damages
Let Jenner Law Help With Your Abuse Case
At Jenner Law, our clergy abuse attorneys are reviewing these cases now. You can discuss your options with our team for free. We provide compassionate, confidential, and complimentary consultations.
Contact us via telephone or using our online contact form.