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. In Michigan, there are different civil and criminal statutes of limitations for sexual abuse.

It is important to remember that the statute of limitations that applies is the one that was in place at the time of the abuse.  This means that even though the SOL may have been lengthened since the incident, it typically cannot renew time-barred cases. 

Civil Lawsuits for Sexual Abuse

In a civil lawsuit, a victim of sexual abuse demands compensation and damages. A civil case can be filed against your abuser or an organization that failed to protect you (such as a school or church). You may be entitled to economic and non-economic damages, including compensation for your pain and suffering.

Unlike many states, Michigan does not have a special statute of limitations for civil sexual abuse cases. Instead, the standard personal injury SOL is applied. Sexual abuse claims must be filed within:

  • Two years of the act, if involving assault or battery,
  • Five years of the act, if the perpetrator lived with the victim, or
  • By the victim’s 19th birthday (if under 18 years old at the time of the abuse).

If you were a victim of sexual abuse at work, you may have a sexual harassment claim under federal and state laws. To file a federal lawsuit, you must first make a complaint (or charge) with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). An EEOC complaint must be filed within 300 days of the sexual abuse or harassment.

The EEOC will then 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

Criminal cases are filed by the State of Michigan on behalf of a victim. In order to file criminal charges, you must notify 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, electronic monitoring, and sex offender registration.

In Michigan, there is not a statute of limitations for first-degree criminal sexual conduct (involving rape of a minor or violent rape). Other sexual abuse charges must be filed within:

  • 10 years of the act, or
  • By the victim’s 21st birthday (whichever is later).
  • Cases involving DNA evidence must be filed within 10 years of the identification of a suspect or by the victim’s 21st birthday.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Sexual assault and abuse claims are emotionally difficult. They also involve a detailed legal analysis and strict procedural rules. A Michigan lawyer can guide you through the process, educate you about your rights, and offer 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.