The 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. Missouri has different criminal and civil sexual abuse statutes of limitations.

Depending on the timing of your abuse, different statutes of limitations may apply. Missouri law assigns different filing deadlines to adult and child sexual abuse cases. Additionally, the statute of limitations that applies is the one that existed at the time of your 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. You may be entitled to economic and non-economic damages, including compensation for your pain and suffering.

In Missouri, a civil sexual abuse case must be filed within:

  • In childhood sexual abuse cases, either:
    • Ten years from the victim’s 18th birthday, or
    • Three years from the discovery of a physical or psychological injury caused by the abuse,
  • Two years from the event for adult assault or battery cases, and
  • Five years from the event in adult personal injury cases.

If sexual abuse occurs at your workplace, you may also have a sexual harassment lawsuit under federal law. You must file a complaint (or charge) with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) 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

Criminal cases are filed by the State of Missouri 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 and sex offender registration.

In Missouri, the criminal statute of limitations varies depending on the severity of the offense. The criminal statutes of limitations include:

  • Forcible rape: no statute of limitations,
  • Serious offenses involving a minor (including rape and attempted rape): no statute of limitations,
  • Other offenses involving a minor: 30 years from the victim’s 18th birthday, and
  • Other sexual offenses involving an adult: two years.

If you need help determining the correct statute of limitations in your case, contact law enforcement immediately.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Sexual assault and abuse claims are emotionally difficult. They also may involve a detailed legal analysis and strict procedural rules. A personal injury lawyer can guide you through the process, educate you about your rights, and offer emotional support. You may also want to file criminal charges with a law enforcement agency. If you are facing sexual abuse charges and prosecution, a criminal lawyer can help you understand your rights. Time is of the essence, so talk to an attorney as soon as possible.