Sexual abuse is defined as any sexual act that has the intent to do the following to another individual:

  • Abuse;
  • Humiliate;
  • Harass; or
  • Degrade.

The state laws that govern criminal sexual abuse may vary according to whether the victim of the sexual abuse is an adult or is a minor. Child sexual abuse is typically referred to as child molestation.

Adult sexual abuse is typical referred to as rape or aggravated sexual assault. An individual commits sexual abuse if they cause another individual to engage in any sexual act by threatening or causing fear in that individual or engage in a sexual act with another individual who is not capable of comprehending the exact nature of the conduct or is physically incapable of communicating their unwillingness to engage in a sexual act.

Sexual assault is any sexual activity which occurs without consent of all of the parties involved. Sexual assault is a crime in each state in the United States and the laws forbid any sexual activity with any individual who is unable to consent.

Certain individuals are considered to be unable to consent to sexual activities, including:

  • Mentally ill individuals;
  • Children under the age of eighteen, or
  • Individuals who are intoxicated.

There are several acts which constitute sexual assault including but not limited to:

  • Rape;
  • Molestation;
  • Forced sodomy; and
  • Incest.

In certain states, such as Texas, the term sexual abuse is used to describe criminal acts involving sexual conduct against children. Sexual assault is a term that is generally used to described criminal acts of sexual conduct against adults.

The majority of states define incest as sexual relations which are engaged in with a close family member. An individual commits incest when they engage in sexually inappropriate acts with a family member or with an extended family member.

This type of conduct typically occurs when a perpetrator abuses their authority or an ongoing emotional bond with a relative in order to accomplish the conduct. Who is considered a close family member may vary by state but typically includes:

  • Parents;
  • Grandparents;
  • Siblings;
  • Aunts and uncles; and
  • Nieces and nephews.

Aggravated sexual abuse occurs when an individual uses force against a victim or threatens the victim which causes them to fear:

  • Death;
  • Serious bodily injury; or
  • Kidnapping.

This form of abuse may occur when an individual knowing renders a victim unconscious then engages in sexual acts. Another example of aggravated sexual assault may include an individual administering an intoxicant or a drug to an individual without their consent, which impairs their ability to control their conduct and then engaging in sexual acts with the victim.

Indecent exposure is typically referred to as lewd and lascivious behavior. This offense is the crime of displaying genetalia to one or more individuals in a public place, generally with the intent to shock the viewer and sexually arouse the offender.

Voyeurism includes observing unsuspecting individuals while they are engaged in certain activities in order to obtain sexual excitement, including while they are:

  • Naked;
  • Disrobing; or
  • Engaging in sexual activity.

Pursuant to Alabama sexual assault laws, there are five basic sexual abuse charges as well as three categories of sexual abuse. In addition, there are two crimes which involve an element of sexual abuse, including the sexual abuse of a foster child and sexual abuse by a school employee with a student.

These types of offenses have statute of limitations (SOL) which set the amount of time a victim or prosecutor has to file a lawsuit or criminal charge. In most cases, if an individual files their case after the SOL expires, their case will be dismissed.

The statutes of limitations in Alabama are different for criminal and civil sexual abuse statutes of limitations. It is important to note that the SOL which applies is usually the one which existed at the time of the abuse.

This means that although the SOL may have been extended since the incident, it typically will not renew a time-barred case. It is always in an individual’s best interest to report sexual abuse as soon as possible.

Civil Lawsuits for Sexual Abuse in Alabama

In a civil lawsuit, a victim of sexual abuse requests compensation and damages from their abuser. The victim may be entitled to economic as well as non-economic damages, including compensation for their pain and suffering.

A civil lawsuit may also be filed against an institution which failed to protect an individual from their abuse under the theory of vicarious liability. The sexual abuse laws in Alabama provide some of the shortest sexual abuse statutes in limitations in the country.

A civil sexual abuse case must be filed within two year of the victim’s 19th birthday in a childhood sexual abuse case or two years from the incident in an adult sexual abuse case. No exceptions are available to these rules for repressed memories or DNA analysis.

Because of the short statute of limitations, a victim of abuse must act quickly. If sexual abuse occurs at an individual’s workplace, they are required to file a complaint, or charge, with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days of the sexual abuse or harassment.

The EEOC will investigate an individual’s claim and will determine whether it will pursue a lawsuit on their behalf. If the EEOC decides not to litigate an individual’s claim, it will issue a Right to Sue letter.

An individual must file their lawsuit within 90 days of the EEOC’s Right to Sue Letter.

Criminal Cases for Sexual Abuse in Alabama

A criminal case in Alabama is filed by the state on behalf of a victim. In order to file sexual abuse charges in Alabama, an individual must notify law enforcement that sexual abuse occurred.

Law enforcement will investigate the claim and a prosecutor may file charges against the perpetrator. If an individual is found guilty of criminal conduct, they may be sentenced to significant jail time and be required to register as a sex offender.

Although the statute of limitations in civil cases is short, Alabama provides prosecutors ample time to file violent or child sexual abuse charges. The criminal SOL varies depending upon the severity of the offense.

In Alabama, the criminal statutes of limitations include:

  • No statute of limitations on certain offenses, including:
    • rape;
    • violent sexual abuse;
    • sexual abuse that includes the threat of violence; and
    • any sexual abuse of an individual who is under the age of 16;
  • Three years for other felony sexual abuse offenses; and
  • One year for misdemeanor sexual abuse.

To determine the correct statute of limitations in an individual’s case, they should consult with local law enforcement or a local attorney immediately. Although an individual’s case may not have a SOL, they should still report the incident as soon as possible.

Early reporting of incidents of abuse may provide law enforcement and prosecutors with stronger evidence as well as a better chance of convicting the abuser.

Other Compensation for Crime Victims in Alabama

Victims of crime in Alabama may apply for financial assistance with crime-related medical bills as well as other expenses with the Crime Victim’s Compensation Commission. There is a maximum benefit of $20,000.

In order to be eligible, an individual must typically report the crime within 72 hours and apply for benefits within one year. Deadlines may be waived if the individual can show good cause for a late filing.

Do I Need an Alabama Lawyer for Sexual Abuse Case?

A sexual assault or sexual abuse claim can be very emotionally challenging. These types of claims also involve detailed legal analyses as well as strict procedural rules.

If you pursue a civil lawsuit, a personal injury lawyer can guide you through the process, inform you of your rights, and offer emotional support. You may also file criminal charges with a law enforcement agency.

If you are facing charges of sexual abuse, an Alabama criminal lawyer can assist you with understanding your rights. It is important to consult with an attorney as early in the process as you can.