Victims of sexual abuse contend with a lot of trauma, but sometimes even more so when confronting their perpetrator in a childhood sexual abuse case. If you or your child is dealing with this difficult situation, the best thing you can do is call us. There are some things you should know about childhood sexual abuse lawsuits and the statute of limitations for these cases.
Understanding Statutes of Limitations (SOL)
Simply put, a statute of limitations is the maximum amount of time that a person has to bring a lawsuit from the time the injury (i.e. abuse) occurred. SOLs vary widely from state to state and even from claim to claim.
When it comes to childhood sexual abuse cases, many victims believe that their time to file a lawsuit has run out. This is not the case in many states. Statutes of limitations vary from state to state because they are determined by state lawmakers. Don't assume that your case falls outside of limitations -- we recommend contacting an experienced attorney to determine whether SOLs apply to your case.
It may seem like statutes of limitations hinder victims from seeking justice or receiving compensation. Unfortunately, as time passes, evidence can deteriorate, and witness testimonies can become less reliable, which can mean that cases are harder to prove. This is why it is so important for victims to come forward as soon as possible, to ensure that they receive justice and compensation for what they've endured.
Why Victims Don't Report
If your child has been a victim of sexual abuse, we want to help. We have vast experience and we will walk alongside you every step of the way from start to finish. Fill out our free case evaluation form and our office will get in touch with you concerning the next steps.
Here are a few of the reasons your child may give for not wanting to report their sexual abuse:
- Their perpetrator didn't completely or fully assault them, or was scared away before they finished. Even if this is the case, that doesn't make it legal. Any attempted rape is illegal and can be charged against a perpetrator.
- They know their perpetrator. 2 out of 3 victims know their perpetrator and that doesn't negate the fact that their sexual abuse is illegal.
- They don't have any physical injuries and "are fine." Many times, the greatest injuries that come from sexual abuse aren't physical, but emotional. Most sexual abuse victims deal with the emotional trauma that they endured for years after their incident.
- They were intimate with or in a relationship with their perpetrator. No matter the label, consent is always needed in every sexual encounter. Even if your child was in a relationship with their perpetrator, they need to know that their consent always matters.
- They don't want to get in trouble. The shame that victims can feel after sexual abuse is very real, albeit not reality. A victim should never be the one that feels shame for an act that was committed against them. Many times they feel they'll get in trouble because "they shouldn't have been sexually active" or they were drinking underage when it happened. Remind your child that isn't what matters and doesn't undermine what happened to them.
- They're worried law enforcement won't believe them. Law enforcement is trained to listen and transcribe all reports, and they have a duty to take every complaint seriously and to investigate thoroughly. It's important to remind your child too that law enforcement isn't the judge or jury.
Even though it may be difficult, sexual abuse victims (and their parents) should report their abuse as soon as possible. The sooner they report the abuse, the higher the likelihood that they will receive justice and compensation for what they've endured. There is only so much that can be done once the statute of limitations has run out, so it's important to act quickly.