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. South Carolina’s filing deadlines in criminal and civil cases are very different.

The statute of limitations that applies is typically 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 probably will not renew time-barred cases. Make sure you understand the filing deadlines that apply in your claims.

Civil Lawsuits for Sexual Abuse

In a civil lawsuit, a victim of sexual abuse demands compensation and damages from his or her abuser or from an organization like a school, church, or workplace. You may be entitled to economic and non-economic damages, including compensation for your pain and suffering.

In South Carolina, you must file your civil sexual abuse case within:

  • Six years of your 21st birthday, or
  • Three years from the discovery of the abuse and its causal relationship to an injury (such as post-traumatic stress disorder).

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. Most sexual harassment claims are heard in federal courts. To initiate a federal claim, you must first 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

To begin a criminal case, you must first notify law enforcement of the sexual abuse. The authorities will investigate your claim and a prosecutor may file criminal charges against your abuser. If a suspect is found guilty of criminal conduct, he or she may be sentenced to significant jail time and mandatory sex offender registration.

Unlike most states, South Carolina does not have a criminal statute of limitations. Therefore, prosecutors can file charges against an alleged abuser at any time. However, victims should report sexual abuse as quickly as possible. Late reporting may result in lost evidence and a decreased chance of conviction.

Other Compensation for Sex Abuse Victims

South Carolina’s Violent Crime Victim Compensation Fund will pay up to $15,000 for a victim’s crime-related medical treatment, lost wages, and other expenses. (Although the Crime Victim Compensation Fund does not pay for property damage, crime scene cleanup, and relocation expenses, other organizations may help with these costs.) To receive victim’s compensation, you must report the crime to law enforcement within 48 hours and apply for benefits within 180 days.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

It’s difficult to navigate sex abuse claims without 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.