child sexual abusers.8 This publicly-available information appeased citizens and allowed them to
participate in community policing, thereby giving them more control in the criminal justice
process.9 It did not, however, have a significant effect on the overall prevalence of child abuse,
nor did legislators realize the far-reaching implications this law would have on communities.10
In the mid-2000s, after the rampant child abuse scandals within the Catholic Church, the
problem of child sexual abuse came into the national spotlight once again.11 In the second wave
of reforms, legislators focused on amending existing laws to allow more victims of childhood
sexual abuse to seek justice within the legal system.12 This wave of reforms continues to develop
as more states amend their laws regarding the statute of limitations for bringing legal claims of
child sexual abuse to create means by which adult victims can bring expired claims.13 The
changes in the law reflect the nature of child abuse, in that it often remains a secret for decades.14
That second wave of reforms is a much more victim-centered approach and offers the
benefit of potentially identifying abusers who are still at large by allowing victims to bring claims
of childhood sexual abuse that would have previously expired.15 Although this legal strategy is
more beneficial in terms of helping victims find justice than registration and notification laws, it
is still a secondary response to the problem of childhood sexual abuse.16 In addition to reforming
the statutes of limitations, the legal system should focus on responses that will increase the
detection and disclosure of childhood sexual abuse during childhood.17
This Comment describes the unique nature of childhood sexual abuse and specific
obstacles that victims face regarding the timing of their claims, explores the two waves of legal
reforms, the first focusing on regulating the abusers, and the second focusing on assisting victims,
and finally offers suggestions for reform. Part II defines the problem of childhood sexual abuse
by examining its prevalence and unique characteristics. Part III examines the first wave of
legislative reform seeking to address childhood sexual abuse, inspired by a series of tragic
kidnappings and murders, and the effects its focus on registration and identification has had on
sexual offenders. Part IV next outlines the barriers that victims of childhood sexual abuse face
today, mainly the fast expiration of statutes of limitation, and the second wave of legislative
reform that seeks to change these statutes. Finally, Part V concludes with recommendations for
8 Wilson, supra note 7; Prescott & Rockoff, supra note 7.
9 Wilson, supra note 7, at 541.
10 Id. at 519, 524; see Prescott & Rockoff, supra note 7, at 161–92 (exploring the unintended consequences of registration and
notification laws); Damien Cave, Roadside Camp for Miami Sex Offenders Leads to Lawsuit, N.Y. TIMES (July 9, 2009),
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/10/us/10offender.html?pagewanted=print; Richard Tewksbury, Exile at Home: The Unintended
Collateral Consequences of Sex Offender Residency Restrictions, 42 HARV. C.R.-C.L. L. REV. 531, 531–32 (2007); see also infra Part
III.D.iiB (discussing the mixed effects of registration and identification legislative reform on the overall prevalence of child abuse).
11 HAMILTON, supra note 4, at 7.
12 See Erin Khorram, Crossing the Limit Line: Sexual Abuse and Whether Retroactive Application of Civil Statutes of Limitation Are
Legal, 16 U.C. DAVIS J. JUV. L. & POL’Y 391, 400 (2012); see generally MARCI A. HAMILTON & PAUL R. VERKUIL, BENJAMIN N.
CARDOZOSCH. OFLAW, SUMMARY OFSTATUTES OFLIMITATIONSREFORMACROSS THEUNITEDSTATES(2014), available at
http://sol-reform.com/snapshot.pdf (providing an overview of the state of statutes of limitation).
13 HAMILTON & VERKUIL, supra note 12.
14 Jenna Miller, Note, The Constitutionality of and Need for Retroactive Civil Legislation Relating to Child Sexual Abuse, 17
CARDOZO J.L. & GENDER 599, 602 (2011); JANET R. OLIVA, SEXUALLY MOTIVATED CRIMES: UNDERSTANDING THE PROFILE OF THE
SEX OFFENDER AND APPLYING THEORY TO PRACTICE 163 (2013).
15 HAMILTON, supra note 4, at 46.
16 Janus & Polachek, supra note 6, at 158 (advocating for primary responses rather than the current secondary and tertiary responses);
Miller, supra note 14, at 609 (stating that 1000 victims were able to bring claims when California created window legislation). No
commas in numbers with only 4 digits.
17 David Finkelhor, The Prevention of Childhood Sexual Abuse, FUTURE CHILD., Fall 2009, at 169, 176.