In August, a Louisiana appeals court ruled that the “lookback window” for victims of child sexual abuse to file lawsuits against the Catholic Church is constitutional.
The law took effect in 2021, so victims and survivors have until June 14, 2024, to file claims under this three-year timeframe. Afterward, the usual statute of limitations will apply.
What is the purpose of the “lookback window”?
The 2021 law is an amendment to a 1993 statute that allowed adult victims of sexual abuse until their 28th birthday to file a lawsuit. However, many survivors don’t come forward until well into adulthood due to the trauma they endured. Therefore, these time limits often prevent victims from getting justice.
The lookback window provides a temporary opportunity for victims to seek justice through civil litigation even if the statute of limitations has expired in their case. After the three-year window closes, the usual statute of limitations will apply again.
The Diocese of Lafayette tried to challenge the lookback window. Sam Doe stated that Father Stanley Begnaud inappropriately touched him in 1961 or 1962. Father Begnaud was moved to another diocese, retired in 1982, and passed away in 1985. The diocese knew he was a pedophile, but he stayed in ministry, and they didn’t inform the public until 2019.
Sam Doe had repressed memories of the abuse that he didn’t recall until 2019 and filed a lawsuit against the church in 2020. The diocese stated that the lookback window was unconstitutional, but the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal upheld the law.
Victim advocates believe that the church has dodged accountability for too long. Survivors have to deal with the lifelong trauma from the abuse. As the deadline approaches, it is hoped that more will find the courage to step forward and make their voices heard.