Legal Options for Survivors of Sexual Assault

If you are a survivor of sexual assault, legal recourse is available to you. The attorneys at Forester Haynie can walk you through the process, from intake to resolution. Survivors of sexual assault can press criminal charges and/or file a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator.

Should I press criminal charges and/or file a civil lawsuit?

Pursuing a criminal case can be cathartic for many survivors of sexual assault. Proceedings are focused on proving guilt, holding the perpetrator accountable, and preventing him/her from harming others in the future. Pursuing a civil case can help you recover financial compensation to handle expenses (including lost wages, medical and therapy expenses, pain and suffering, etc.) and also uncover a sense of justice.

In criminal cases, it must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” (> 99%) that a defendant is guilty. In civil cases, findings are based on the “preponderance of evidence” (> 51%); this means, in civil cases, judges and juries can find the defendant responsible if the majority of evidence supports that conclusion. Whether the perpetrator is found guilty or not guilty in a criminal case, you can still pursue civil remedies. A guilty verdict in a criminal case can also strengthen your civil case.

Whether or not you are pursuing criminal charges, speak to a sexual abuse attorney at Forester Haynie to explore your options.

What are the “statute of limitations?”

A statute of limitations is the time period a survivor of sexual assault has to file a lawsuit or press criminal charges against a perpetrator. Many survivors have been reluctant to face the pain of reliving past abuse when the statute of limitations for seeking justice in the courts has long since expired. Without a legal remedy, survivors have wondered if telling their stories is worth the trauma of reliving the experience.

In recognition of how expired statutes of limitation deter survivors from stepping forward, states have begun to enact legislation that effectively “revives” civil claims and criminal charges for sexual abuse. Many states have passed laws in the last few years that strengthen protections for survivors of sexual abuse by extending the amount of time survivors have to pursue civil action against perpetrators.

Every state has different statutes of limitations for pursuing criminal and civil cases for sexual assault, so it’s important to reach out to an experienced sexual assault attorney, like those at Forester Haynie, to see what your options are. All calls are confidential and case evaluation is free.

What if I’ve already contacted an attorney and s/he has rejected my case?

Even if an attorney has already rejected your case, if the statute of limitations has changed due to new legislation, you may now be able to pursue the case. If the abuse occurred in one of these states, please reach out to a sexual assault lawyer at Forester Haynie because you may have a case.

StateRecent Changes in Sexual Assault Statute of Limitations
AlabamaRaised age limit to file to 25 from 21 in 2019.
ArizonaNineteen-month window ends December 31, 2020. After it closes, suits allowed until age 30, up from 20.
CaliforniaThree-year window opened Jan. 1, 2020. Triple damages if cover-up is proven. After window closes, suits allowed until age 40, up from 26.
ConnecticutRaised age limit to 51 from 48 in 2019.
District of ColumbiaTwo-year window ends in May 2021. After that, suits allowed until age 40, up from 25.
MichiganRaised age limit to 28 from 19 in 2018.
Montana Raised age limit to 27 from 24 in 2019.
New JerseyTwo-year window ends December 1, 2021. After that ends, suits allowed until age 55, up from 20.
New YorkRaised age limit to 55 from 23 in 2019.
North CarolinaTwo-year window ends January 1, 2022. After that ends, suits allowed until age 28, up from 21.
PennsylvaniaRaised age to 55 from 30 in November 2019, but the law is not retroactive and so just for allegations of abuse in the future.
Rhode Island Raised age limit this year to 53 from 25 for lawsuits against abuser and from 21 against institutions.
TennesseeRaised age limit to 33 from 19 in May 2019.
TexasRaised age limit to 48 from 33 in 2019.
VermontEliminated age limits in May 2019 and window never expires.

Forester Haynie is a national law firm that focuses on making sure every person across America has equal access to justice. The firm currently represents hundreds of sexual abuse survivors against musicians, celebrities, religious institutions, and other organizations. They have successfully recovered millions of dollars for their clients.  If you are also a child sexual assault survivor, the law firm of Forester Haynie wants to hear your story and help you go from being a victim to a survivor by calling 214-210-2100.


Leave a Reply