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. Oregon 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.

Beginning in 2016, Oregon’s civil statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse was extended.

If the abuse occurred before 1/1/2016, you must file a case:

  • Within six years of your 18th birthday, or
  • Three years of discovering the abuse.

If the abuse occurred on or after 1/1/2016, you must:

  • File a civil claim before your 40th birthday, or
  • Within five years of discovering the abuse.

Adult sexual abuse cases must be filed within two years 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 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 Oregon on behalf of a victim or victims. A criminal investigation will begin once you notify law enforcement of the sexual abuse. After the evidence is reviewed, 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 Oregon, the criminal statute of limitations varies, depending on the severity of the offense and the age of the victim. They include:

  • Rape or sexual abuse of a child: filed before the victim’s 30th birthday or within 12 years after the offense is reported to law enforcement (whichever occurs first), and
  • Six years for rape, sexual abuse, and other sex offenses.

Additionally, different SOL’s apply if there is DNA evidence in your claim. If there is DNA evidence, there isn’t an SOL for first-degree sex crimes. Second-degree sex cases with DNA evidence must be filed within 25 years of the crime. And, other felony cases must be filed within two years of DNA-based identification.

Other Compensation for Sex Abuse Victims

Sex abuse victims may also receive financial assistance through the Oregon Crime Victims’ Compensation Program. The Program pays for medical expenses and other crime-related costs and awards benefits on a case-by-case basis. Additional victim’s compensation may also be available once an abuser is convicted.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Many victims benefit from legal representation. 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.