Massachusetts Child Sex Abuse

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.

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 are also responsible.

Child Sex Abuse Laws in Massachusetts

Various criminal and civil laws deal with 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 private victims to seek justice and remuneration for their harms.

Definition of Child Sex Abuse in Massachusetts

Child sexual abuse covers different sexual acts or threats against minors. Rape and statutory rape, which may or may not involve force or the threat of force, are always forms of sexual abuse. However, not all forms of sexual abuse are rape or involve sexual intercourse. 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.

Statute of Limitations for Civil Liability

In 2014, state lawmakers lengthened the statute of limitations for lawsuits against abusers, allowing victims to sue up to 35 years after the alleged abuse instead of three. 

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, 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.

35 Years
after the alleged abuse

Statute of Limitations for Criminal Liability

The statute of limitations controlling criminal cases for child sexual abuse was also extended. 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.

27 Years
from date crime reported

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 statute of limitations changes allow private victims to address the injustices of the past and seek compensation for the losses they have suffered over the years.

Contacting a Lawyer

Your first recommended step is to find an attorney with experience handling child sex 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 great attorney recommendations.

Once you find an advocate, 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.


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, only $20,000 of this compensation may come from a charitable organization, such as the Catholic Church or the Boy Scouts of America.

Institutional Child Sexual Abuse in Massachusetts

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. The record of their acts dates back far before the new 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 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.

Help for Massachusetts Victims of Child Sex Abuse

If you suffered institutional sexual abuse as a child, you are not alone. The state of Massachusetts is taking steps to make it easier for you and other victims to seek justice for the harm caused to you. Additionally, there are many resources for therapy and support so you can work through the trauma of your abuse and move forward with your life.