A statute of limitations is a legal term that is used to describe written laws that specify the amount of time that a plaintiff is allowed to file a civil lawsuit. A statute of limitations may also refer to the amount of time in which a prosecutor has to file a criminal complaint against a person suspected of a crime.
The purpose of a statute of limitations is to establish a set deadline for filing lawsuits, in order to both protect defendants from untimely litigation and to ensure that evidence is fresh and not lost as a result of the passage of time. Lost evidence and witnesses that a defendant could have otherwise utilized in forming a solid legal defense is one of the main reasons in enacting statutes of limitations.
It is important to note that each state has their own statute of limitations for various criminal offenses, including sexual abuse. Although the exact definition will differ by state, sexual abuse is generally defined as defined as any sexual act with the intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, or degrade another person.
- Sexual abuse is generally broken down into one of three types of abuse:
- Child sexual abuse;
- Rape; and
- Aggravated sexual abuse.
In Oregon specifically, there are statutes of limitation on when a sexual abuse crime may be brought against a defendant for both criminal and civil actions. Oregon sexual abuse laws define the act of sexual abuse as any sexual contact that does not fall under the definitions of rape, sodomy, unlawful sexual penetration, or forcible compulsion.
The statute provides the following as examples of what acts may be considered to be sexual abuse:
- Fondling breasts;
- Sexual contact of the buttocks; or
- Sexual contact of the vaginal area.
Civil Lawsuits for Sexual Abuse in Oregon
As mentioned above, a person that has been accused of sexual abuse in the state of Oregon may be charged criminally, but is also civilly liable for their tortious actions. In the state of Oregon, an individual harmed by sexual abuse must initiate a civil claim of sexual abuse within seven years of the date in which the conduct alleged to constitute sexual abuse occurred.
However, similar to many other states, the state of Oregon has adopted an extension of the statute of limitations based on the discovery of child sexual abuse, and its effects. Nearly every state has a suspension of the statute of limitations while someone is a minor. Oregon, along with many other states, have implemented these new discovery extensions, which are designed specifically for cases involving child sexual abuse.
These “tolling” rules allow for civil lawsuits to proceed so long as the civil lawsuit is commenced before the person attains 40 years of age, or not more than five years from the date the person discovers the connection between child abuse and the injury, whichever period is longer. This means that Oregon will allow civil lawsuits for sexual abuse to be brought for an extended period of time, if the person that was harmed by the abuse was a minor at the time.
The purpose of tolling rules is to counter the problem of prosecuting and holding molesters civilly accountable when their victims may have repressed memories long after the statute of limitations would have expired. These memories are often discovered through mental health treatment, such as therapy, and can have repercussions that outlast a typical statute of limitations.
It is important to note that in order to be successful in a civil lawsuit regarding sexual abuse, the plaintiff, i.e. the person that was allegedly harmed, will still have to prove all of the elements of their civil claim. Additionally, the plaintiff must also demonstrate that they suffered quantifiable damages.
Because of this, it is often advised to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer if you beleive that you ahve been seuxally abused and suffered harm. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to help you initiate a civil lawsuit, prove all of the elements of the claim, and demonstrate that you suffered quantifiable damages. An attorney will also be able to represent you in a court of law, as needed.
Additionally, if the sexual abuse occurred while you were working, then you may need to contact your local Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) office. Your local EEOC office will be able to investigate any claims regarding sexual abuse that occurred while you were working as an employee in the state of Oregon, and even help you bring a civil claim against your alleged abuser.
Criminal Cases for Sexual Abuse in Oregon
The statute of limitations for criminal sexual abuse claims can specifically be found in the Oregon Revised Statutes 131.125. The statute outlines the time limitations in which prosecution for sexual abuse may commence, stating:
“A prosecution for any of the following felonies may be commenced within 12 years after the commission of the crime or, if the victim at the time of the crime was under 18 years of age, anytime before the victim attains 30 years of age:
This means that a criminal case for sexual abuse may either be commenced within 12 years after the time that the sexual abuse allegedly occurred, or before the victim of the crime reaches 30 years of age, if the victim was a minor at the time the crime occurred.
It is important to note that, sexual abuse and sexual assault offenses are categorized according to the age of the victim. As such, sexual abuse crimes against children are categorized differently from sexual crimes against adults. This means that the criminal penalties and statute of limitations concerning sexual abuse of a child differ, as outline above.
It is important to note that the prosecution will not generally be required to prove that the abuser was aware of the minor’s age at the time of the abuse, or that the required age difference existed between the abuser and the victim. Further, if the sexual abuse occurred with a child under the age of twelve, the maximum allowable punishment will be doubled.
Other Compensation for Sex Abuse Victims in Oregon
In addition to damages recovered in a civil lawsuit, there are other means of compensation for sex abuse victims in Oregon. Sex abuse victims in Oregon may also receive financial assistance through the Oregon Crime Victims’ Compensation Program. The Oregon Crime Victims’ Program pays for medical expenses and other costs related to the harms suffered by victims of sexual abuse in Oregon.
Further, if the person alleged to have committed the sexual abuse is found criminally guilty, then there may also be victim’s compensation available to the victim after the conviction. It is important to note that the amount of funds from both the program and victim’s compensation are awarded on a case by case basis.
Do I Need a Criminal Lawyer?
As can be seen, the criminal penalties for sexual abuse in Oregon are severe, and can result in heavy criminal fines and lengthy imprisonment. As such, if you have been charged with committing sexual abuse in the state of Oregon, it is important to immediately consult an experienced Oregon criminal defense lawyer.
An experienced criminal defense lawyer will be able to assist you in building and asserting your best legal defense, as well as asserting any legal defenses that may be available in your case, such as the statute of limitations. Further, an attorney will also be able to represent you at any in person criminal proceeding, as needed.