Childhood Sexual Abuse Damage Claims in Washington State
In the state of Washington, a childhood sexual abuse survivor may start a lawsuit against the abuser any time within three years of discovering the injury caused by the abuse. In cases where the adult survivor remembers previously forgotten childhood sexual abuse and as a result discovers injuries caused by that abuse, there may be an easily distinguished time when the three year statute of limitations begins to run. The safest course in such a situation would be to file suit within three years of remembering the abuse.
However, many adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse have always remembered some or all of the abuse but only realize at some later time the extent or nature of damage they have suffered as a result of the abuse. People in this category may still file suit against their abuser, so long as they sue within three years of discovery of particular injuries. For example, a child who is abused by her father may well know that the abuse is a bad thing, and that it causes shame and hurt, but she may have no idea of the role the abuse plays in problems she has with school, peers, substance abuse, sexual acting out or sexual withdrawal, intimacy issues, depression, etc., throughout her childhood, teen years, and adulthood. Often an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse will only discover the true impact the abuse has had throughout her life when she seeks help from a mental health professional for an immediate life problem, such as coping with a child reaching puberty or with difficulties in a relationship, and in the process of examining the immediate issues begins to confront and examine her own abuse issues. Sometimes an adult survivor hits a crisis point because coping mechanisms he has used all his life begin to unravel or become themselves destructive. Many adult survivors do not recognize that dissociation is unusual (“I thought that everyone ‘spaced-out’ sometimes”) or that their depression and emotional numbing is outside the norm, until they begin to explore issues in counseling.
The state of Washington also provides Crime Victims Compensation benefits for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse who recover memory of abuse and then follow certain steps to qualify for benefits. The time limits are shorter and stricter than the statute of limitations for starting a lawsuit.
Please contact us with any questions about possible claims against an abuser or a church, school, or other institution that failed to protect a child from sexual abuse.