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Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Sex Abuse Cases Brought Years After Abuse
If you have been watching or reading the local news lately, you probably have heard about the Louisville priest who was recently found guilty of sexually abusing a young boy at a camp in the 1970s. The facts of the case are truly disturbing, but what is even more disturbing that the accuser told the church what had happened to him 15 years ago and they did nothing about it. It is fortunate that the victim was able to bring his abuser to justice now, so many years after the abuse occurred. He was able to do so because in Kentucky, there is no statute of limitations in criminal sexual assault cases involving children.
Statutes of limitations are like the game clock at a football game. Once time runs out, no more plays can be run. In the legal world, once the statute of limitations has run out, no more lawsuits can be filed. Statutes of limitations are a bit trickier than football game clocks though because there is no universal amount of time victims have to bring a lawsuit or press criminal charges.
For example, in the case above, the victim was able to bring a criminal lawsuit because no statute of limitations applied. Unfortunately, he will not be able to bring a civil lawsuit against the priest, the camp, or the Catholic Church because civil lawsuits alleging childhood sexual abuse must be brought within five years of the last act of abuse, or within five years of the date the victim’s discovery of the abuse, or within five years after the victim reaches the age of eighteen. The abuse in this case occurred well over 5 years ago, the victim first came forward in 2001, and the victim is more than five years over the age of eighteen.
To make things even more confusing, statues of limitations vary between crimes and between different civil claims, and there are special rules that start and stop the clock, potentially giving a victim a longer time to bring a claim than they might otherwise have had. This is one of the main reasons it is important to talk with an experienced attorney as soon as possible after you have suffered an injury at the hands of another. An attorney is going to be able to figure out what statute of limitations applies, and make sure you don’t run out of time to file a civil lawsuit or press criminal charges.
Talking with an attorney early on is also important because an attorney can take action to help you preserve the evidence necessary to preserve your case. For example, in a slip and fall case, an attorney could go to the scene of the accident and take pictures, ask for a copy of any video footage that may be available, and make sure medical records related to the injury are properly preserved.
If you have been injured, don’t let the clock run out or the evidence you need disappear. Talk with an attorney as soon as you can.