Have You Experienced Sexual Assault Or Abuse?
More than 1,200 sexual assault survivors helped since 2023.
More than 1,200 sexual assault survivors helped since 2023.

Maryland Child Sexual Abuse

Maryland passed the Maryland Child Victims Act which eliminates the civil statute of limitations to file a lawsuit for child sex abuse cases. If you have been impacted by sexual abuse in Maryland, we can help you understand your legal rights and options, including filing a lawsuit.
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Survivor Advocate

Key Takeaways

  • Maryland passed the Child Victims Act in 2023, removing the civil statute of limitations for civil lawsuits related to child sexual abuse, allowing victims to seek justice regardless of when the abuse occurred. They are the first state to completely eradicate statutes of limitations for child sexual abuse related offenses.
  • The legislation was influenced by documented cases of abuse within institutions like the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Boy Scouts of America, which were accused of covering up abuse for decades.
  • The law abolishes the statute of repose and allows for unlimited lookback periods, enabling victims to file civil lawsuits even if they were previously time-barred, potentially leading to increased accountability and compensation for survivors.

The Maryland legislature recently gave adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse greater access to justice in the civil courts. On April 11, 2023, the state passed the Maryland Child Victims Act. This legislation abolishes the statute of limitations for adult survivors to file civil lawsuits against their abusers and the institutions who helped to conceal child sex abuse.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Boy Scouts of America are two of the largest organizations accused of the institutional cover-up of child sexual abuse in Maryland. Documentation of abuse stretches as far back as the 1960s and as recently as the early 2000s. A majority of child sexual abuse lawsuits are filed against institutions like churches, schools, and hospitals rather than individuals. This is because the main outcome of a civil lawsuit is monetary damages and institutions can be forced to pay these while filing a lawsuit against an individual may not make sense if they do not have the funds to pay a large judgement. 

If you or someone you know was a victim of sexual abuse, you can reach out to us to be connected with a lawyer experienced in helping individuals in filing child sexual abuse lawsuits under the Maryland Child Victims Act.

History of Maryland Child Sexual Abuse Laws

Before this legislation, the history of Maryland state laws addressing incest, rape, molestation, and sodomy of children made it difficult for some adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse to seek justice. There are two main reasons for this:

  • Laws about child abuse in the United States didn’t exist until 1963.
  • Maryland didn’t specifically address child sexual abuse in state statutes until 1974.

By 1976, the Maryland legislature defined first- and second-degree rape, which only covered non-consensual vaginal intercourse. It also included first, second, third, and fourth-degree sexual offenses to cover other forced sexual acts and sexual contact. All of these offenses, except for a sexual offense in the fourth degree, are felonies under Maryland law. Felony offenses have no statute of limitations in Maryland.

It was not until 2003 that the state divided sexual child abuse and other forms of physical child abuse into separate statutes.

However, these laws did not address victims’ rights to seek compensation in civil court. Sexual abuse civil lawsuits were subject to the general three-year statute of limitations applicable in most personal injury cases.

In 2017, Maryland enacted an extension of the statute of limitations for civil child sexual abuse claims, giving victims 20 years after they turned 18 to file suit. However, the bill also added the statute of repose, creating a hard cutoff for suits based on claims that had already expired when the 2017 bill went into effect. In 2023, we saw the expansion of this law with the Maryland Child Victims Act. 

Maryland Child Victims Act of 2023

How Does the New Maryland Child Sex Abuse Legislation Help Victims?

Victim advocates have long argued for ending the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse. That’s because it can take survivors many years to process their abuse and seek justice.

In a major victory for abuse victims, Maryland Governor Wes Moore signed the Maryland Child Victims Act into law on April 11, 2023, abolishing the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits related to child sexual abuse. Under this law, anyone impacted can file a child sexual abuse lawsuit to recover monetary damages at any time against their abuser or those who knowingly allowed the abuse to occur.

The repeal creates an unlimited lookback period, allowing victims to revive previously time-barred claims. If you have previously thought about filing a child sexual abuse lawsuit in Maryland but were told this was not possible due to the civil statute of limitations, you may be able to file a lawsuit now. 

The legislation took effect on October 1, 2023 and is not limited to those who suffered abuse after this date — anyone who has experienced child sexual abuse in Maryland has a right to file a child sexual abuse lawsuit regardless of how long ago the harm happened. 

The law does place a cap on the monetary damages a victim can receive from a civil suit — although this should not deter individuals from coming forward. An experienced lawyer can help you understand the caps on monetary damages in Maryland under the Child Victims Act — and we can put you in touch with someone today. 

  • Non-economic damages from private entities such as churches and civic organizations are capped at $1.5 million. There is no cap for services, including therapy and medical expenses.
  • Public entities, including school boards and local governments, can only be sued for up to $890,000 in damages.

Archdiocese of Baltimore Child Sex Abuse

Lawmakers passed the Maryland Child Victims Act less than one week after Maryland’s attorney general released a report detailing a years-long investigation of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

The report outlined information found in hundreds of thousands of pages of church documents dating back to the 1940s, along with interviews of victims and witnesses. It revealed decades of abuse perpetrated against children by priests, seminarians, deacons, and laypersons in the Catholic Church. It also accused church leaders of covering up the abuse. The church has not publicly denied the findings of this investigation.

Maryland’s top prosecutor discovered at least 600 child victims over a 60-year history of abuse within the Baltimore Catholic Church. The investigation uncovered the following evidence of abuse and an institutional cover-up between 1964 and 2004:

  • Clergy used their power and authority to exploit children and their families. Abusers groomed victims with gifts and special attention.
  • Parents provided unfettered access to their children because of the abusers’ position of trust and authority.
  • Abusers brazenly continued their abuse, even after victims came forward or concerns were raised regarding their behavior.
  • Church officials did not report the criminal behavior to law enforcement. Instead, bishops and church leaders conducted internal investigations in which they dismissed reports of abuse, did not adequately investigate complaints, and made little to no effort to corroborate the abuse.
  • Church leaders moved suspected abusers from parish to parish with promises that they would not be allowed further contact with children and failed to warn parishioners of a priest’s background.
  • In some cases, known abusers were sent to “treatment” before being reassigned to a position with access to children.
  • Church documents show that the archdiocese was more concerned with avoiding scandal and bad publicity than protecting victims.
  • The attorney general’s investigation found evidence that the archdiocese influenced the press to cover up allegations of abuse to keep them from becoming public and used church members within the legal system to help abusers avoid criminal prosecution.

To date, the Baltimore Archdiocese reports that it has paid more than $13.2 million to 301 abuse victims since the 1980s. The Maryland Child Victims Act has the potential to increase the number of victims who come forward seeking compensation for their pain and suffering. If you were impacted by clergy sexual abuse as a child, you have expanded legal rights and options and we can help you understand how you can seek help and healing today. 

Hiring a Maryland Child Sex Abuse Lawyer

If you’re considering filing a civil lawsuit for childhood sexual abuse, you need an experienced child sex abuse lawyer in Maryland to be a fierce advocate for you. They can not only help you understand the process of filing a child sexual abuse lawsuit in Maryland, they can help ensure you get the justice you deserve. 

You may be able to recover damages for therapy bills, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life. Every lawyer Helping Survivors works with offer free consultations, and under take cases on a contingency fee arrangement — meaning there are no upfront costs and you won’t pay unless they win your case.

Helping Survivors works with experienced and trauma-informed attorneys around the country, including those representing individuals under the Maryland Child Victims Act. We can put you in touch with a trusted attorney today so you don’t have to wait to take the next step. 

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