Do statutes of limitations apply to child sex abuse claims?

Jul 24, 2020 | Sexual Abuse

Statutes of limitations for child sex abuse in Washington and throughout the U.S. vary depending on the jurisdiction. 

A statute of limitations puts a time limit on your ability to file a civil claim or press criminal charges against someone who has committed child sex abuse. 

Should child sex abuse victims have extra time to pursue action?

If you or a loved one is a victim of child sex abuse, you know that victims may miss filing deadlines because trauma makes it difficult for them to reveal their abuse or confront their abuser until years after the fact. Most victims wait until they are adults before disclosing the abuse they suffered. The average age for divulging child sexual assault is 52 years old. One-third of victims report abuse while they are children, but another one-third may never share information about the abuse they endured. 

Do states apply the same statutes of limitations?

Over the past two decades, 48 states and the District of Columbia have reformed their laws to give survivors more time to pursue civil and criminal claims. Some states allow the revival of civil claims that previously expired. If your state has a revival window, it may or may not have a deadline. 

Most states have pursued reforms: 

  • Forty-six states have done away with statutes of limitations in criminal cases. 
  • Ten states have repealed statutes of limitations in civil cases. 
  • Seventeen states allow abuse victims to revive expired claims. 

Vermont is the only state to eliminate both civil and criminal statutes of limitations and to grant an indefinite window of time to revive all expired civil claims. 

These changes in law protect the public by identifying predators who might strike again. Reforms also educate the public so that the legal system and families can prevent abuse.