CHILD USA Makes Its Mark in Federal Legislative Reform
September 16, 2022

CHILD USA has been making considerable strides in advancing the civil rights of children through advocating for federal legislation since 2016. In 2022, CHILD USA together with its sister organization, CHILD USAdvocacy, has been working with federal lawmakers to enact laws that will better protect children throughout the country. Here are the bills we support; many of which we drafted.

ENDING THE SILENCE SURROUNDING SEXUAL ASSAULT AND HARASSMENT

CHILD USA is thrilled to be an ally of the legislative efforts of Gretchen Carlson, a dedicated advocate for victims of sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace and the recipient of CHILD USA’s 2022 Barbara Blaine Trailblazer Award. CHILD USA supported and worked to help pass the bill she spearheaded, the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021, which made arbitration agreements unenforceable for sex abuse and harassment claims.  This will allow hidden predators to be identified and prevent them from abusing children in the future.  President Biden signed the Act into law in March of this year.

CHILD USA and CHILD USAdvocacy also support another bill he is leading on,  the recently introduced Speak Out Act, a bipartisan bill to prohibit nondisclosure[1] agreements in cases of sexual assault and sexual harassment. NDAs, as they are called, have discouraged victims from coming forward, and this bill will ensure that a victim’s silence cannot be a condition of justice.

FEDERAL STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS REFORM

Since CHILD USA began our work, we have been instrumental in passing statute of limitations (SOL) reform[2] in multiple states across the country. Since 2002, 48 states and the District of Columbia have amended their child sex abuse SOLs. The time has now come for change at the federal level. CHILD USA and CHILD USAdvocacy have worked with federal lawmakers to introduce three bills that would create a national standard for SOLs in some child sexual abuse cases and incentivize states to eliminate civil and criminal SOLs by providing states that change their laws access to a bigger pool of federal money.

Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act of 2022 (S 3103). CHILD USA always aims for bipartisan support for our legislative efforts.  This bill showed success by passing in the Senate by unanimous consent on March 2, 2022, and the House on September 13, 2022, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced legislation that would eliminate the SOL for over a dozen federal child sex abuse offenses including sex trafficking of children, sexual abuse of a minor, and the sexual exploitation of children. This legislation gives victims the time they need to come forward.

No Time Limit for Justice Act (S 3107/HR 4059).

This bill would incentivize states to eliminate the criminal and civil SOLs in child sexual abuse cases through providing states additional funds through federal grant funding under the Services, Training, Officers, and Prosecution (STOP) program[3].

States of Limitation for Child Sexual Abuse Reform Act (HR 4860).

This bill will amend the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) to incentivize states to eliminate civil and criminal SOLs in child sexual abuse cases and revive expired civil claims through federal funding. Federal funds from CAPTA would be tied directly to the number of reforms achieved in each state.

BANKRUPTCY REFORM: SHIFTING THE FOCUS FROM THE RESPONSIBLE INSTITUTIONS TO THE VICTIMS

This past year, CHILD USA has been working with lawmakers to amend the federal Bankruptcy Code[4], specifically Chapter 11, in cases that involve child sex abuse victims. Major youth-serving institutions, including the Boy Scouts, USA Gymnastics, and over 30 Catholic dioceses and religious orders around the country, have flocked to use Chapter 11 as a shield for their coverup of sexual abuse. Victims are then forced into a legal process where they are denied discovery and fair compensation, as well as given no voice during the process. The institutions, in contrast, are assisted by the court to maintain the business stay operational.

CHILD USA and CHILD USAdvocacy are proposing a bill that tackles three crucial issues for victims in the bankruptcy process: (1) limiting third party releases from liability, e.g., the smaller institutions inside the main overarching organization such as parishes and schools inside a diocese; (2) expanding victims’ rights to sue related non-debtors; and (3) providing an opportunity for victim impact statements before a bankruptcy plan is confirmed. We aim to level the playing field and make the bankruptcy process fair for victims and hold institutions accountable for recklessly and negligently endangering kids.

TITLE IX REFORM: CREATING ACCESS TO JUSTICE FOR ALL STUDENT SURVIVORS

CHILD USA and CHILD USAdvocacy have also been in discussions with federal lawmakers to amend Title IX[5] regulations to guarantee all sex abuse and assault victims access to justice in schools and universities. Currently, their claims are set by state SOLs. This creates a vast discrepancy between victims’ access to justice across the states. We are proposing a federal SOL discovery rule plus 10 years or the state law, whichever is longer.

Our team is a resource and partner for both state and federal lawmakers looking to pass legislation that will protect children, prevent future abuse, and ensure all survivors are able to access justice. While we celebrate the legislative successes thus far, there is a lot more to do!  We hope you will join our mission and vision of a world where children are safe and happy.

[1] Nondisclosure agreements are when an agreement is made between two parties that certain information will remain confidential. Nondisclosure agreements historically benefit those institutions accused of child sexual abuse (CSA).

[2] A statute of limitation (SOL) is an arbitrarily set deadline to file a claim or press charges for a crime that is committed.

[3] This program awards grants to develop and strengthen the criminal justice system’s response to violence against women and to support and enhance services for victims.

[4] Bankruptcy is a legal process through which people who cannot repay debts to creditors may seek relief from some or all of their debts. Chapter 11 Bankruptcy allows a company to stay in business and restructure its obligations.

[5] Title IX is the most commonly used name for the federal civil rights law in the United States that was enacted as part of the Education Amendments of 1972. It prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or any other education program that receives funding from the federal government