The Wilbanks Child Endangerment and Sexual Exploitation (CEASE) Clinic is the first of its kind in the nation, representing survivors of child sexual abuse and exploitation in civil litigation and juvenile court dependency matters. The clinic not only provides direct representation to survivors, but also serves as a teaching center as part of the University of Georgia School of Law.
Welcome to the Wilbanks CEASE Clinic
Our mission is to provide free, trauma-informed legal services to our clients in a supportive, professional environment as well as to educate and prepare the next generation of lawyers to represent survivors of child sexual abuse and exploitation. As a resource center for survivors and attorneys who are seeking these claims, we form part of a movement that seeks justice for all survivors of child sexual abuse and exploitation.
HB 17 Hidden Predator Act
In July of 2015, Georgia House Bill 17, also known as the Hidden Predator Act, provided a two-year window to revive civil cases that were previously barred under the old statute of limitations. The window allowed survivors of child sexual abuse and exploitation, who were previously locked out of the courts due to the old statue, to finally seek justice. CEASE filed 6 claims under the window, which closed on June 30, 2017, and continues to provide legal representation for survivors under Georgia's current statute of limitation.
Since the closing of the window, survivors in Georgia must file their claims by the age of 23, or if the abuse occurred on or after July 1, 2015, survivors can bring suit until age 23 or within 2 years of the discovery that the abuse caused the resulting harms.
On June 9, 2021, the Wilbanks Child Endangerment and Sexual Exploitation (CEASE) Clinic filed an amicus brief authored by post-graduate fellow, Melina D. Lewis, and Director Emma Hetherington in favor of the Georgia Supreme Court hearing arguments in a survivor's case against St. Joseph's Catholic Church and other parties in Georgia. On June 21, 2021, the Georgia Supreme Court decided to hear those arguments.
CEASE received a favorable opinion from the Supreme Court of Georgia in the case of Harvey v. Merchan on June 21, 2021. CEASE’s client alleges that she was abused by her parents from early childhood until the age of 22 in both Quebec and in Georgia. Her claim was filed under a retroactive open window provided by the 2015 Hidden Predator Act, which revived previously barred civil claims of child sexual abuse against perpetrators.