The Maryland Senate has overwhelmingly passed the Child Victims Act, a piece of legislation that seeks to expand the legal rights of survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
The bill, which passed 43-5 on Monday, was celebrated by advocates who had been pushing for its passage for years. It would extend the statute of limitations for civil claims related to childhood sexual abuse, allow survivors to sue their abusers in civil court after age 25 — up from the current age of 21 — and create a two-year window for older victims to bring civil cases against their abusers.
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. William C. Smith Jr., a Montgomery County Democrat, was the culmination of a multiyear effort by advocates and survivors of childhood sexual abuse, many of whom had testified in the past about their experiences.
“This is a major step forward for survivors of child sexual abuse in Maryland,” Smith said in a statement. “The passage of this bill sends a powerful message that we will not tolerate the exploitation of our most vulnerable citizens.”
The bill was amended in the Senate on Monday to ensure that any civil claims related to childhood sexual abuse that were previously time-barred due to the statute of limitations could still be brought in the two-year window.
The legislation, which also includes a provision that would allow survivors to seek punitive damages, now heads to the House of Delegates, where it is expected to pass and be signed into law by Gov. Larry Hogan.
The passage of the Child Victims Act marks a major victory for advocates and survivors of childhood sexual abuse, who have been advocating for its passage for years. It will expand the legal rights of survivors and provide a pathway for justice.