DC sex abuse victims are encouraged to file civil suits

D.C. Councilman David Grosso makes an announcement on the Statute of Limitations Amendment Act of 2018. With him are Jeffrey Dion, CEO of the Zero Abuse Project; former NFL player Al Chesley, a survivor of sexual abuse; D.C. Councilwoman Mary Cheh; Renee Williams of the National Crime Victim Bar Association; and D.C. Councilman Charles Allen. (Courtesy David Grosso)

Survivors of sexual abuse in D.C. still may be able to take their attackers to court, even if a statute of limitations applies.

There’s no statute of limitations for sex abuse in D.C. now, because of a law that took effect on May 3.

CLICK TO EXPAND: Information for sexual abuse survivors on the Statute of Limitations Amendment Act of 2018. (Courtesy David Grosso)

Opportunities to file criminal or civil lawsuits are limited for people sexually abused before the city law changed. But the law includes a provision to allow victims of abuse to file civil lawsuits through May 3, 2021, if they’re younger than 40, or at any age if they realized or became aware that they were abused within the previous five years.

“We’re giving them another window here to try to get justice for their case,” D.C. Councilman David Grosso said at a Monday news conference. Victims need to know there are resources available for anyone wishing to take advantage of the two-year window, he said.

“We are here for you,” said Renee Williams of the National Crime Victim Bar Association. “We have a network of victim center trauma-informed attorneys who are ready to assist victims.”

Survivors can get help with referrals for attorneys at the group’s website, or by calling the help line at 1-844-4HELPDC (1-844-443-5732).

CLICK TO EXPAND: Information for sexual abuse survivors on the Statute of Limitations Amendment Act of 2018. (Courtesy David Grosso)

The National Crime Victim Bar Association also offers resources and a confidential phone line to discuss with survivors any of the traumas they’re experiencing beyond attorneys and what the legal system can do for them.

Anyone victimized in D.C. can pursue legal action in the District, regardless of where they lived then or now, or where the perpetrator lived then or now.

“And it’s important that they do so,” said Jeffery Dion, CEO of the Zero Abuse Project, adding that the reluctance of victims to come forward can allow abusers to victimize generations of children.

The average age at which victims nationwide report their abusers is 48.

“We often find that [abusers are] still molesting kids at 70 and 80 years old, in walkers and in wheelchairs. Because pedophiles don’t retire.” Dion said. “By exposing those predators, we can help protect kids today.”

Grosso and the Zero Abuse Project will be holding a town hall meeting to educate survivors on options, and offer resources for justice and healing, at the John A. Wilson Building on Nov. 6.

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