Is the Sexual Abuse Statute of Limitations Different for Children vs. Adults?

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Sexual abuse survivors can sue an abuser regardless of how old they were at the time. However, how long they have to sue depends on their age during the abuse. But why is the sexual abuse statute of limitations different for children and adults, and is that changing?

Generally, child sexual abuse survivors have much longer to sue an abuser than adults. While this is often true across the country, some states still have very short filing deadlines for child victims. Both children and adults deserve time to process sexual abuse and decide whether or not to sue an abuser. Recently, several states have extended their statute of limitations for child survivors, which could indicate adults may have longer filing deadlines in the future.

The Law Office of Andrew Shubin fights for all survivors. If you need help filing a lawsuit within your state’s statute of limitations, our compassionate lawyers are here. For a free case evaluation, call the sexual abuse victim attorneys at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin today at (814) 826-3586.

Why Is the Sexual Abuse Statute of Limitations Different for Children and Adults?

Sexual abuse is never okay, so why might the statute of limitations be different based on who the victim is? When it comes to sexual abuse lawsuits, many states have a similar view of the appropriate statute of limitations, depending on the victim’s age.

When you’re still a child under 18, it can be very difficult to recognize or name sexual abuse. Of course, it can be just as hard for adult victims to do so as well. That being said, minors cannot bring a lawsuit against a defendant independently under 18 years of age. Because of that, and the fact that children often have difficulty identifying sexual abuse or might repress memories of abuse at a young age, the statute of limitations is often longer.

While our sexual abuse victim attorneys believe that all victims deserve time to heal and decide whether or not to file a sexual abuse lawsuit, not every state shares that same ideal. Many states have short statutes of limitations for adults, as the belief is adults should know who their abuser is and file a lawsuit accordingly. Generally, the statute of limitations is longer for child victims, as they may not know their abuser or recognize abuse immediately.

What Is the Sexual Abuse Statute of Limitations for Children?

The statute of limitations for sexual abuse lawsuits varies across the country. Each state sets its own filing deadlines for civil suits, including those concerning the sexual abuse of a child. That being said, for the most part, states recognize that child victims often need a long time to decide whether or not to sue.

While the statute of limitations for children to sue a sexual abuser can range across the country, they tend to be relatively long. Some states, like Pennsylvania, have a 37-year statute of limitation that begins when a victim turns 18. In other states, like Alabama, the statute of limitations is two years from a minor victim’s 19th birthday or two years from the last date of injury.

Most states have longer filing deadlines for child victims of sexual abuse, closely mirroring Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations. However, that’s not always the case. If you’re a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and count on having a long time to sue an abuser, speak to a sexual abuse victim attorney. While many states do indeed have a longer statute of limitations for child sexual abuse lawsuits, some states do not.

You must be aware of your state’s statute of limitations to file a sexual abuse lawsuit against an abuser. In many cases, if you miss the filing deadline, you lose your chance to sue an abuser for childhood sexual abuse.

What Is the Sexual Abuse Statute of Limitations for Adults?

Unfortunately, the sexual abuse statute of limitations for adult survivors is often relatively short. Because of that, it is sometimes more important for adult victims of sexual abuse to know the statute of limitations in their state, as they often don’t have as much time to decide whether or not to sue an abuser.

Generally, the statute of limitations for adult victims of sexual abuse to file a lawsuit is one to three years. Some states, like Minnesota, have filing deadlines as long as six years for adult sexual abuse survivors. Some states have a special statute for adult victims. For example, adults in Pennsylvania between the ages of 18 and 24 have until age 30 to file a sexual abuse lawsuit. Depending on where you live, your state may toll the statute of limitations until you or a mental health or healthcare professional identify sexual abuse, but that’s rare for adult survivors.

Some states don’t even have a special statute of limitations for adult sexual abuse, meaning survivors must comply with the general personal injury statute of limitations. This likely means that they will have just one to two years to file a lawsuit. Because these rules vary so much from state to state, it’s important to ask a sexual abuse victim attorney about filing a lawsuit on time. Speaking about your experience before you feel ready can be overwhelming, but a compassionate attorney can stand by your side and offer support.

Changes to the Sexual Abuse Statute of Limitations for Children and Adults

The statute of limitations for sexual abuse lawsuits for children and adults aren’t set in stone. In fact, there has been a recent movement pressuring legislators across the country to take another look at their statutes of limitations. There’s been progress for child survivors in many states, which could indicate the same for adult survivors in the future.

Recently, several states have either extended their statutes of limitations or enacted lookback windows for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The Pennsylvania statute mentioned above was signed into law in 2019 following the nationwide movement to extend the statute of limitations for children. This prompted investigations, like the grand jury investigation by the Pennsylvania Attorney General, which uncovered egregious sexual abuse by priests and a decades-long systemic coverup by the Catholic Church. Some states, like New York, opened lookback windows, allowing victims whose statute of limitations had lapsed to sue an abuser, regardless of when the abuse occurred.

While the individual statutes of limitations for adult survivors of sexual abuse are relatively short across the country, there has been recent pressure to extend them. If this happens, adult survivors may have more time to file a lawsuit in the future, meaning more survivors can get the justice they deserve.

Our Attorneys Can Help You File a Sexual Abuse Lawsuit

Whether you are a survivor of childhood or adult sexual abuse, our lawyers can help you get the justice you deserve. Call the compassionate sexual abuse victim attorneys at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin for a free case evaluation today at (814) 826-3586.