Have You Experienced Sexual Assault Or Abuse?

Massachusetts Child Sexual Abuse

Understand your legal rights and options if you were a victim of child sexual abuse in the state of Massachusetts.

Survivor Advocate

Key Takeaways

  • In 2015, Massachusetts extended the statute of limitations for lawsuits involving child sexual abuse, allowing victims to sue up to 35 years after the alleged abuse.
  • The law also extended the age limit for child victims of abuse to file a lawsuit to 53 years old. State legislators are working on a bill that would permanently eliminate the statute of limitations for civil child sexual abuse cases, allowing plaintiffs to revive time-barred claims.
  • If you or someone you know experienced sexual abuse in Massachusetts, you can get in touch with us to discuss your experience, your rights, and the available options.

Sadly, Massachusetts is known for its many cases of institutional sexual abuse and corresponding cover-ups within the Roman Catholic Church.

But the church is not the only institution in the state that has harbored and protected child sexual predators. The Boy Scouts of America and other organizations that teach and supervise children have also been found to be fostering harm.

Child sexual abuse in Massachusetts is rampant at the institutional level. Numerous institutions of trust have violated the confidence of the public. Various civil and criminal laws are in place to help the state and victims get justice.

Child Sex Abuse Laws in Massachusetts

There are various criminal and civil laws regarding child sex abuse cases in Massachusetts. Because of the significant number of cases over many years and the overwhelming damage caused, legislators extended the statute of limitations for child sexual assault to allow the state and victims to seek justice and remuneration for their harms.

Definition of Child Sex Abuse in Massachusetts

Child sexual abuse as defined by the Massachusetts government website refers to “the sexual exploitation or victimization of a child by an adult, adolescent, or older child. However, not all forms of sexual abuse are rape or involve forced penetration. The following are also sexual abuse:

Each of these acts carries serious criminal penalties and may also form the basis of a child sex abuse lawsuit.

Last Date Modified
May 15, 2024

Statute of Limitations in Massachusetts for Filing a Civil Lawsuit for Child Sexual Abuse

35 Years

after the alleged abuse

In 2014, Massachusetts state lawmakers lengthened the statute of limitations for lawsuits involving sexual abuse of minors, allowing victims to sue up to 35 years after the alleged abuse. Previously, the statute of limitations was limited to 3 years.

Legislators also extended the age limit for child victims of abuse to file suit to 53 years old, which is significantly older than the previous age limit of 21. Additionally, the new law opens up employers, managers and institutions to liability but not retroactively.

Currently, state legislators are working on a bill that would permanently eliminate the statute of limitations for civil child sexual abuse cases. If it passes, it will also allow plaintiffs to revive time-barred claims.

Statute of Limitations for Civil Liability for Child Sexual Abuse

27 Years

from date crime reported

Massachusetts also extended the statute of limitations controlling criminal cases for child sexual abuse. The time limit for prosecutors to file the case sits at 27 years starting from the date the crime was reported to police officials or from when the victim reaches 16 years of age.

If you are not sure where to turn, RAINN can help.

Call 800-656-HOPE (4673) to talk confidentially with a trained professional from RAINN.

They can put you in touch with local resources and organizations that can help in your healing journey.

If you want to speak to a lawyer about your experience, we can help.

Child Sex Abuse Lawsuits

The sexual acts committed against children can form the basis of a lawsuit against the perpetrator as well as their supervisors and the organizations and institutions they worked for.

Fortunately, the recent changes to Massachusetts statute of limitations allow victims to seek justice and compensation for the losses they have suffered over the years. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse often experience long-term effects from the trauma they’ve experienced. These can include post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and more.

Contacting a Lawyer

If you are a survivor of child sexual abuse in the state of Massachusetts and you’re looking to pursue criminal or civil action against your abuser or an institution, the first recommended step is to find an attorney with experience handling child sexual abuse cases. If your case involves an institution, you’ll want to search among lawyers who have dealt with the particular institution in the past. Other survivors, counselors or therapists can often make attorney recommendations.

Once you find a law firm, they will first help you understand the process that lies ahead and then begin collecting evidence to prove your damages. If an institution is involved, this may require your lawyer to conduct extensive depositions and hold several meetings with the institution’s attorneys.


Childhood sexual abuse can cause physical and emotional trauma and injuries. The damages these injuries cause typically include economic and noneconomic losses that follow victims throughout life. They include:

  • Medical bills for injuries
  • Counseling and therapy bills
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of earning potential

These damages can generate significant financial losses. Your attorney will seek to recover the maximum compensation for your case. However, if the case is being brought against a charitable organization, such as the Catholic Church or the Boy Scouts of America, the compensation will be limited to $20,000.

Institutional Child Sexual Abuse in Massachusetts

Institutional child sexual abuse refers to the sexual abuse of a minor while in the care of an institution, such as a church, school, government agency, youth organization, or community center/ Tragically, there are a number of institutions and organizations such as churches, schools, government agencies, youth organizations and community centers that are directly implicated in child sexual abuse.

While institutional child sexual abuse sadly happens in every state, there have been a higher than average number of instances in Massachusetts, and unfortunately many of the records of this abuse date back far before the statute of limitations allows.

The Roman Catholic Church

Perhaps the most notorious institutional offender in Massachusetts and across the nation is the Roman Catholic Church.

In the early 2000s, the Boston Globe released the results of an investigation that detailed rampant child sexual abuse and cover-ups in the Boston Diocese. The attorney general at the time also filed a report that demonstrated that at least 789 children were sexually abused up to that time since 1940.

Victims and the state filed numerous lawsuits and criminal charges seeking justice for hundreds of victims. Today, the lawsuits continue, and old crimes against children resurface in the pursuit of justice.

The Boy Scouts of America

The Boy Scouts of America has had to answer to tens of thousands of lawsuits and criminal charges nationwide over the past decade.

The organization’s history of abuse is well-known and undisputed. Nearly 200 men and women from Massachusetts and thousands nationwide appeared in a 2012 Los Angeles Times database of adults who were kicked out of the Boy Scouts of America for likely committing sexual abuse.

Schools in Massachusetts

Schools are places of safety and learning for children. Occasionally, adults prey upon their vulnerability. Schools across the state deal with sexual predators on staff, and some even try to cover up the abuse.

Within the halls of the state’s schools, administrators, teachers, coaches and other students have all committed child sexual abuse, and the act may occur on and off campus.

The problem is so rampant that numerous bills are making their way through the legislature to address the problem.

Strengthening background checks, increasing the punishment for educator sexual misconduct, and requiring all schools and youth organizations to engage in active child sexual abuse prevention are some of the provisions these bills call for.

Want To Speak With A Lawyer?

Understand your legal rights and options as a survivor of sexual assault and abuse.