The statute of limitations is the time period by which a party or victim needs to take legal action to enforce rights and / or seek financial compensation for the negligence or intentional harm caused by a person, business, and / or government entity. These time limits are proscribed or set by the legislation in statutes / laws. The time period for a particular case will depend on the state where the incident took place, the type of action brought, and the parties involved. Over the years, legislatures have broadened the time limits by which a victim can bring forth a case based on the sexual abuse of the victim.
The statute of limitation in sexual abuse cases has always been a topic of discussion amongst the law community as it is very impactful on the amount of cases received by firms. The topic is also sensitive when understanding the physical and emotional trauma that may impede an individual from filing a lawsuit within a set amount of time after the incident. As time has gone on and many states have become more progressive and understanding of the victim’s position in sexual abuse cases, we have seen a positive trend in the expansion of statutes of limitations in these cases. Just recently, both New York and New Jersey passed laws affecting their statute of limitations. What’s interesting is that they both went about this in different ways. Having realized that many cases of sexual abuse involving a child had been swept under the rug, New York passed the Child Victims Act (CVA) which repeals the statute of limitations on these cases for a period of a year and raises the age limit to 28 in criminal cases and 55 in civil suits . The one-year grace period for cases outside of the statutes of limitations led to 439 cases being filed on just its first day enacted. New Jersey’s approach was to raise the statutes of limitations age to 55 for all child abuse cases or within 7 years of the victim’s realization that the abuse caused harm. The most recent example of a state that is expanding its statute of limitations involving sexual crimes is Texas. Effective September 1st, the statute of limitations has been doubled from 15 to 30 for personal injury claims related to sexual assault.
What is important about the changes being made in these states is that it sends a message to survivors of these heinous crimes that legislators are listening and that they are not going unheard. These changes encourage more people to report actions that may be considered sexual assault/abuse and gives less reasons as to why it should be brushed under the rug. With cases like Jeffrey Epstein’s reaching national media coverage, more and more states are becoming aware that they need to stand up for victims of sexual abuse. As 2019 continues, keep an eye out for more states to follow in the footsteps of New York, New Jersey, and Texas.