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. Vermont 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.
The Vermont civil statute of limitations varies, depending on the age of the victim.
- Childhood sex abuse: within six years of either the act or discovering an abuse-related injury, or
- Adult assault and battery claims: within three years of the act.
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 Vermont 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 Vermont, the criminal statute of limitations varies, depending on the severity of the offense and the age of the victim. They include:
- Aggravated sexual assault (regardless of the victim’s age): no SOL,
- Sexual assault of a minor: within 40 years of the act, and
- Sexual assault or sexual abuse of a vulnerable person: within six years of the act.
Even though Vermont offers extended criminal SOL’s in many sex-related cases, it is in your best interest to report the crime as quickly as possible. A prompt investigation can lead to a stronger case against your abuser. If you have questions about criminal sex abuse, contact law enforcement immediately.
Other Compensation for Sex Abuse Victims
You may also apply for assistance from Vermont’s Victims Compensation Program. Victims’ compensation payments help pay your crime-related medical treatment, lost wages, and other expenses. Unlike many states, Vermont does not impose filing deadlines on victims’ compensation claims.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
It may be in your best interest to contact a lawyer. 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.