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. Oklahoma has different criminal and civil sexual abuse statutes of limitations.
It is important to report sexual abuse as quickly as possible. Early investigation may lead to stronger evidence in your case. Additionally, 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 cannot 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.
Oklahoma 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:
- Two years of the abuse,
- Two years from discovering the abuse, but
- No more than 20 years from the victim’s 18th birthday.
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 as soon as possible.
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 Oklahoma 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 Oklahoma, the criminal statute of limitations varies, depending on the severity of the offense. They include:
- Child sexual abuse: 12 years from date of discovery, and
- 12 years from the commission of a rape.
If DNA evidence is used to identify the abuser, criminal charges must be filed within three years of his or her identification.
Other Compensation for Sex Abuse Victims
Oklahoma’s Crime Victim Compensation Program will pay for a sex abuse victim’s crime-related medical treatment, counseling, and other expenses. To receive compensation, victims must report the crime to law enforcement within 72 hours unless they have good cause for late reporting. Additionally, victims must apply for Program benefits within a year of the crime (unless there is good cause for late filing.) Claims on behalf of minors are usually granted an exception to these filing deadlines.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
It can be difficult to handle a sex abuse claim on your own. Sexual assault and abuse claims are emotionally difficult and involve a detailed legal analysis. 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.