Governor Gavin Newsom made history in California this week by signing laws that strengthen the rights of child sex abuse survivors and increase protection for children from online exploitation.
No Time Limit on Child Sex Abuse Civil Claim
Assembly Bill 452 (AB 452) eliminates the time limit for civil claims of child sex abuse that arise on or after January 1, 2024. Previously, survivors had until their 40th birthday or within five years of discovering the impact of their experience to file such a claim or be time-barred.
“With the shame and secrecy that surround most incidents of childhood sexual assault and abuse, it can take decades for many survivors to confront their experience. Processing trauma and painful memories is complex and can’t be put on a timetable. That’s why I was proud to co-author AB 452 with Assemblymember [Dawn] Addis to end California’s arbitrary time limit for when survivors of childhood sexual assault can seek justice in court,” said State Senator Nancy Skinner. “With Governor Newsom’s signing of AB 452, going forward, children who suffer abuse will have no time limit for when they can hold to account those who abuse them and those who aid or allow the abuse to happen or cover it up.”
Monitoring Requirements for Social Media Platforms
Assembly Bill 1394 (AB 1394) intends to hold social media platforms, such as Instagram and TikTok, accountable for their role in spreading child sexual abuse materials.
Starting on January 1, 2025, social media platforms can be liable for deploying a system, design, or feature that was a factor in causing minor users to be victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Additionally, social media platforms must give California users a way to report child sexual abuse materials they’re depicted in and respond to the report within 36 hours. If the social media platform fails to meet certain requirements, such as permanently blocking the material from being viewed, then it could be liable for statutory damages.
“Governor Newsom’s signing of AB 1394 further crystallizes California’s commitment to protecting kids in the online world, and sets a nationwide standard in the fight against child sex abuse material,” said Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, the bill’s author. “This law underscores our state’s dedication to defending the most vulnerable among us, and sends a resounding message to other states and tech platforms that using the internet to exploit children will no longer go unchecked.”
Praise from Sex Abuse Survivor Advocates
The new legislation was met with praise by California sex abuse lawyers and survivor advocates from Panish | Shea | Boyle | Ravipudi LLP and at Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC, who have collectively represented more than 1,000 child sex abuse survivors including over 600 in California. Representatives from the two firms released the following joint statement, reflecting on the importance of assertive legislative action for children and adult survivors of child sex abuse:
“This week, California stood up for children who have experienced some of the worst crimes against humanity. The passage of these two bills marks an important step forward in defending the legal rights of child sex abuse survivors and creating critical safeguards for children against the dangers present on social media. We know that children who have been sexually abused often have their reports ignored or dismissed by the institutions they trust. These laws will help ensure they are ignored no longer. We commend Governor Newsom and state legislators for their leadership and dedication to protecting the rights and safety of vulnerable children and the adults who were harmed as children.”