2018] REASONABLE FOR WHOM 1845
victims for their ongoing injuries and the expenses of treating such injuries,
and educate the public about CSA.5 However, because of the unique
characteristics of CSA and the injuries it creates, it takes victims decades to
report the abuse, and most never do.6 CSA thus poses a difficult problem for
the legal system, which generally imposes short and inflexible time limits on
bringing civil actions.7
While civil actions based on CSA were traditionally lumped in with other
personal-injury actions, most states have developed an individualized
treatment of CSA.8 Today, the vast majority of states have a special limitations
period for CSA lawsuits.9 Moreover, most of these states allow the discovery
rule to toll the statute of limitations for survivors who were blamelessly
unaware of their claims during the limitations period.10 Nevertheless, courts
still deny many CSA victims the opportunity to prove their allegations.11 This
dismissal often occurs when judges applying the discovery rule conclude at
the outset that a plaintiff failed to exercise reasonable diligence in the
aftermath of the abuse, such that the plaintiff’s claims are time-barred.12
As this Note will demonstrate, the traditional legal standard of reasonable
diligence is entirely inapposite in CSA litigation. CSA lawsuits often present
intricate factual and legal allegations, which reflect CSA’s extraordinary
nature as a social and legal harm.13 For instance, psychological defense
mechanisms can work in tandem with abusers’ manipul ation and coercion to
block victims’ memories of abuse and deter them from reporting.14 Those
victims who eventually do report frequently allege multifaceted injuries and
complex theories of liability, especially where negligent third parties enabled
the abuse.15 The traditional discovery rule—which asks a simple yes or no
question—was not built to handle these allegations. As a result, judges trying
to answer the discovery question as a matter of law invariably oversimplify or
5. See Cynthia Grant Bowman, The Manipulation of Legal Remedies to Deter Suits by Survivors of
Childhood Sexual Abuse, 92 NW. U. L. REV. 1481, 1481 (1998).
6. See Hamilton, supra note 1, at 398 (“[T]he vast majority of [CSA] victims need decades
to come forward, and many never do.”); infra note 19 and accompanying text.
7. Andrew J. Wistrich, Procrastination, Deadlines, and Statutes of Limitation, 50 WM. & MARY
L. REV. 607, 609–10 (2008).
8. See infra Part II.B.1.ii.
9. See infra Part II.B.1.ii.
10. See infra Part II.B.2.
11. See Joshua Lushnat, Note, Sexual Abuse Memory Repression: The Questionable Injustice of
Demeyer, 13 J.L. SOC’Y 529, 531 (2012) (“Absent a slam-dunk-case brought immediately after
the incident, civil vindication for [CSA] victim[s] is rather difficult to obtain.”).
12. See infra Part III.A.2.
13. See infra Part III.B.
14. See infra Part III.B.1.
15. See infra Part III.B.2.