The recent ruling in the civil case against Bill Cosby for sexually assaulting a 16-year-old at the Playboy Mansion in 1975 raised some eyebrows. It wasn’t because the comedian was on trial for his actions against women– again. What made the jury’s decision particularly noteworthy was that the victim prevailed even though the attack happened 47 years ago.
Up until recently adult victims of childhood sexual assault had no recourse since in most cases, the statute of limitations had long passed. That gave them no chance to obtain justice and just as importantly, emotional closure for what they had endured.These included thousands of children abused not just by celebrities like Bill Cosby, but also bymembers of powerful institutions with deep pockets entrusted with their care.
But California, which leads the nation on many social issues recently led the way by updating outdated childhood sexual assault laws. One of the most significant reforms was providing adult victims with a three-year window to come forward,regardless of how long ago their abuse happened. Another change widely expanded theirdeadline for doing so.
All this allowed Judy Huth, who was Bill Cosby’s victim all those years ago to come forward and successfully sue the disgraced comedian.It also provides new hope for other adults who have had to live in silence for decades. Obviously, no amount of money can make up for what these men and women suffered as children. Nonetheless, punishing defendants who willfully concealed the sexual abuse of minors with up to three times the normal fines for their behavior should also go a long way to helping curb shameful cover-ups in the future.
Many people question why childhood sexual abuse victims don’t report their attackers immediately. But it’s precisely this common mindset of questioning the victim that causes so many of them to stay silent. As noted by The Dominguez Firm, 73%of sexually abused children do not tell anyone about their abuse for at least a year. Some never confide in anyoneat all. There are many complex reasons for this. Two of the most prevalent are shame and fear of not being believed.
Trying to cover up something so traumatic often leads to a lifetime of depression, substance abuse problems and even suicide attempts.Feeling powerless to do anything about what has happened makes matters even worse. By recognizing that sexual abuse victims often need more time to come forward, California has taken a major step toward helping adult victims of childhood sexual assault. And as the Huth v. Cosby case showed, even the wealthy and powerful will now need to answer for their actions.