Should There Be A Statute Of Limitations For Child Sex Abuse Cases

The Jerry Sandusky trial brought the issue of child sex abuse to light. It also highlighted several of the problems that occur when trying to prosecute these cases. One such problem is the statute of limitations that victims face. Most states provide victims with a five-year window to come forward with their allegations.

The statute of limitations should be done away with for a couple of specific reasons. The first reason is that the victims are often too scared or ashamed to come forward until they are adults. Kids who are abused at age 8 may not come forward until they are in their 30’s or 40’s.

Shame isn’t the only reason why abuse victims may not come forward. As the Sandusky case showed us, people in a position of power may care more about their jobs than the victims. Victims may be intimidated or bought off with gifts and money. The victim may feel that telling the authorities could make the problem even worse.

Children who are sexually abused will never forget what happened while growing up. They will have poor relationships with others as adults because they will have a hard time trusting people. They may have repressed memories and nightmares about the events that took place for a long time. If a victim is forced to deal with the crime for their entire life, there should be no limit to when they should be able to press charges.

Nobody should be able to get away with violating a child’s innocence just because too much time has passed. Not being able to punish the criminal is like saying that the crime is no big deal because it happened so long ago. Even the best criminal lawyer wouldn’t want to defend that statement. Failure to prosecute also gives the impression that other victims should not come forward because there is no penalty for the abuser.

The only reason that there should be a statute of limitations is to protect people from fraudulent claims. A successful business owner could have a disgruntled worker who wants to get even for what he feels is an undeserved termination. Instead of telling people not to work for that company, he claims that his son was sexually abused on company property.

The business owner doesn’t want his company dragged through the mud even though the allegations are false. Instead of facing possible jail time on top of a ruined reputation, the owner pays a settlement to keep the story out of the media. If there is a statute of limitations, it could cause someone to think twice about following through on a phony court claim.

A child who claims sexual abuse should always be taken seriously. Parents should not look the other way if they notice signs of abuse. The police should be contacted right away to start a criminal investigation. Victims should have an unlimited amount of time to come forward because it can be hard to do so. Society should not turn a blind eye to any victim willing to face his accuser and his past.

This article was contributed by Jenny Kim. Jenny serves as Client Manager for Price Benowitz LLP criminal attorneys.

1 Reply to "Should There Be A Statute Of Limitations For Child Sex Abuse Cases "

  • Steven Sweat, Sex Abuse Lawyer Los Angeles
    September 22, 2014 (7:03 pm)

    As with any civil claim for damages, it is necessary to not allow “stale” claims to be filed for a lot of reasons including the loss of evidence over time. However, in sexual abuse claims, being “liberal” in allowing claims to be filed years after the alleged incident is important given the likelihood that these incidents will go unreported. In California, there is a set statute of limitations with a standard tolling for minority. In addition, the legislature has carved out an exception if the victim can provide attestation from a qualified mental health professional that the victim was suffering from repressed memories regarding the incident, in which case the statute runs for one year from that date of “discovery.” Good discussion. Thanks for the blog.