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. Ohio has different sexual abuse statutes of limitations for civil and criminal cases.
It is important to remember that the statute of limitations that applies typically 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 may not renew a time-barred claim.
Civil Lawsuits for Sexual Abuse
In a civil lawsuit, a victim demands compensation (including economic damages and non-economic damages). You must file a civil lawsuit against an abuser within:
- Adult sexual assault: two years from the event,
- Child sexual assault: 12 years from the victim’s eighteenth birthday.
If childhood sexual abuse is fraudulently concealed from a victim, the statute of limitations is tolled (or paused) until he or she would have discovered the abuse using due diligence.
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 harassment or abuse. The EEOC will investigate your claim and determine whether it will pursue a lawsuit on your behalf.
If the EEOC 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. If you need help with a sexual harassment claim, contact an employment lawyer for help.
Criminal Cases for Sexual Abuse
In a criminal case, you must contact law enforcement about the sexual abuse. After an investigation, a prosecutor may file criminal charges against your alleged abuser. If the suspect is found guilty of sexual abuse, he or she may face incarceration and sex offender registration.
Under Ohio law, a prosecutor must file criminal charges within:
- Adult sexual assault: 20 years from the event,
- Child sexual assault: 20 years from the victim’s eighteenth birthday.
In 2015, a new law extended the statute of limitations in cases involving DNA evidence. Prosecutors now may file charges against a suspect within five years of DNA identification—even if the 20-year SOL had otherwise expired.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
It is probably in your best interest to contact both law enforcement and a personal injury lawyer. Law enforcement will investigate your case and may file criminal charges against the perpetrator. A personal injury lawyer will ensure that you file a civil lawsuit within the statute of limitations, guide you through the litigation process, and provide emotional support.
If you are facing criminal charges for a sexual offense, a criminal lawyer can help you understand your rights. Time is of the essence, so talk to an attorney as soon as possible.