A statute of limitations (SOL) sets the amount of time a victim or prosecutor has to file a lawsuit. Typically, if you file a lawsuit after the SOL expires, your case will be dismissed. Kentucky has different criminal and civil sexual abuse statutes of limitations.
The statute of limitations that applies is the one that existed at the time of the abuse. This means that even though the SOL may have been lengthened since the incident, it typically will not renew time-barred cases.
Civil Lawsuits for Sexual Abuse
In a civil lawsuit, a victim of sexual abuse demands compensation and damages from his or her abuser. Victims may be entitled to economic and non-economic damages, including compensation for pain and suffering.
Kentucky imposes a longer statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse cases. If you are a victim of childhood abuse, you must file your civil case within:
- Five years from your 18th birthday,
- Five years from the time you discovered the abuse, or
- Five years from the event (whichever is last).
Adult sexual abuse cases must be filed within one year of the incident. If you need help calculating the SOL in your case, contact a personal injury lawyer.
If sexual abuse occurs at your workplace, you may also have a sexual harassment lawsuit under state and federal law. To file a federal claim, you must first submit a complaint (or charge) with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). EEOC charges must be filed within 300 days of the sexual abuse or harassment.
The EEOC will investigate your claim and determine whether it will pursue a lawsuit on your behalf. If it decides not to litigate your claim, it will issue a Right to Sue letter. You must file a lawsuit within 90 days of the EEOC’s Right to Sue letter.
Criminal Cases for Sexual Abuse
The first step in a criminal case is to law enforcement of the sexual abuse. The authorities will investigate your claims and a prosecutor may file charges against your abuser. If a suspect is found guilty of criminal conduct, he or she may be sentenced to significant jail time and sex offender registration.
In Kentucky, the criminal statute of limitations varies, depending on the severity of the offense. They include:
- No SOL for rape and felony sex abuse,
- Five years from the victim’s 18th birthday for misdemeanor child sex abuse, and
- One year for misdemeanor sex abuse of an adult.
Although felony charges do not have a filing deadline, it is important to report criminal sex abuse as quickly as possible. A prompt criminal investigation may lead to stronger evidence and a higher likelihood of conviction.
Other Compensation for Sex Abuse Victims
The Commonwealth of Kentucky will pay for a sex abuse victim’s forensic exam (which documents evidence of the abuse). The Kentucky Claims Commission is responsible for payment of forensic exams and may also pay up to $25,000 for your crime-related medical and other expenses. To receive compensation (other than a forensic exam), victims must report the crime to law enforcement within 48 hours and apply for benefits within five years of the crime.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
If you are a victim of sex abuse, consider hiring an experienced lawyer. Sexual assault and abuse claims are emotionally difficult. They also involve detailed legal analysis and strict procedural rules. A personal injury lawyer can guide you through the process, educate you about your rights, and offer much-needed emotional support. You should also file criminal charges with a law enforcement agency.
If you are facing sexual abuse charges and prosecution, a criminal defense lawyer can help you understand your rights. Time is of the essence, so talk to an attorney as soon as possible.