In April 2021, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed the Justice for Vulnerable Victims of Sexual Abuse Act into law. This bill was also known as Act 1036 or Senate Bill 676 (SB 676).
The new law extends the legal deadline for civil lawsuits of child sex abuse from 21 to 55 years old. It also opens a two-year “look back” window reviving time-barred civil cases.
The “look back” window opened on February 1, 2022. It will close on January 31, 2024.
This new law gives many survivors of child sexual abuse new legal options for holding their abusers and the responsible organizations accountable.
Are You Able to File an Abuse Claim?
Learn More About Arkansas’ Statutes Today
Act 1036 Offers Abuse Survivors New Legal Options
Prior to Act 1036, abuse survivors in Arkansas had until the age of 21 to file a civil lawsuit. Under this previous deadline, many survivors who delayed reporting their assault had limited legal options. By passing Act 1036, Arkansas lawmakers have given survivors a second chance at obtaining justice.
“It needed to be corrected. This wrong needed to be right. Our council, the legislators, have opened their eyes [to] what it is that we went through as young men. And now we can stop it or at least slow it down.”
Under the new law, child sexual abuse survivors now have until age 55 (or three years after discovery) to file a civil lawsuit. Act 1036 also opens a two-year revival window for expired civil lawsuits.
The “look back” window opened February 1, 2022. Survivors have two years to file a claim against their abuser and/or the responsible institution. The window closes on January 31, 2024.
Act 1036 Helps Clergy Abuse Survivors
Arkansas is one of many states across the country with a long history of Catholic priest abuse. At least 14 clergy members from the Dioceses of Little Rock have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse. Many of these incidents took place decades ago and were not reported until after the previous legal deadline had expired.
Act 1036 will give these Arkansas clergy abuse survivors the opportunity to file lawsuits against their abusers and the negligent, responsible organizations. It also gives hope to survivors of sexual violence by school teachers and faculty, health professionals and youth leaders.
Lawmakers Pass Similar Legislation Nationwide
Arkansas is among several states to pass reform laws for child sexual abuse survivors. States nationwide have expanded statutes of limitations for sexual offenses against minors.
In some states, like Arkansas, lawmakers have also opened revival windows for survivors. California, Colorado and Louisiana currently have open windows. Maine and Vermont opened permanent “look back” windows that never close.
Retroactive windows in these states and others have allowed thousands of survivors to file lawsuits against clergy members and other abusers. Arkansas survivors now have the same opportunity to seek justice before the two-year window closes on January 31, 2024.
Brantley, M. (2021, May 11). Legislature opens door to expanded legal action against organizations that harbored child sex abusers. Arkansas Times.
Child USA. (N.D.) Arkansas Child Sex Abuse SOLs. Retrieved January 18, 2022.
Justice for Vulnerable Victims of Sexual Abuse Act [PDF], Senate Bill 676, Chapter 118 (Arkansas 2021).
Rose, S. (2021, May 13). Arkansas law opens door for more sexual abuse cases against Boy Scouts of America. KATV.