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The impacts of statute of limitations laws in sexual abuse cases

There are many laws that can be very impactful when cases of sexual abuse come to light. This includes statute of limitations laws, which generally vary from state to state. Today, we’ll go over the two main types of statutes of limitations and what impacts they can have when it comes to sexual abuse cases.

Criminal statutes of limitations

These laws regard how long criminal charges can be brought regarding different types of crimes. When the statute of limitations has expired for a given instance of sexual abuse, a criminal case can generally no longer be sought in connection to that abuse.

Whether a criminal case is ultimately pursued in connection to a given instance of abuse can have many impacts for the victim. For one, it could impact whether he or she feels that justice has ultimately been served. Also, what happens in a criminal case against an abuser can have impacts in civil claims a victim brings in connection to the abuse.

Civil statutes of limitations

Speaking of lawsuits, this is what civil statutes of limitations regard. Specifically, they set time limits on how long victims of certain wrongs have for filing civil claims in connection to what happened to them. So, for sexual assault victims, such laws can impact how long bringing a lawsuit over the abuse would be a possibility.

Attorneys can advise sexual abuse victims on what options they have, and how long these options would be open, given the laws in their state, such as the applicable civil statute of limitations.

Shifts in such laws

Recent years have seen some states eliminate or lengthen their statutes of limitations related to sex abuse, or consider taking such actions. Examples include:

  • California getting rid of the criminal statute of limitations for rape and certain other sex crimes
  • Michigan lengthening the criminal statute of limitations for child sex abuse crimes this year
  • Pennsylvania currently considering a bill which would eliminate the criminal statute of limitations and lengthen the civil statute of limitations for child sex abuse

What impacts do you think such shifts are having out in the world? Do you think we will see further such shifts moving forward? What would you most like to see happen in the future regarding statutes of limitations and other laws that have impacts on sexual abuse cases?

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