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What is the Statute of Limitations on Sexual Assault?

Render illustration of Sexual Assault title on Legal Documents

Sexual assault is an especially insidious crime. No one is afraid to come forward about being mugged or having their house robbed. No one is afraid to file a lawsuit against the drunk driver that plowed into their car. Sexual assault victims, however, are often pressured into keeping quiet. The pressure may come from family, authority figures, educators, society at large or the perpetrator directly. In many cases, the victim was a child at the time and might not even realize the extent of the abuse until years later as an adult.

There is, however, a time limit for bringing just about any type of legal claim. If you or someone you care about has been subjected to sexual abuse, it’s important to consult a legal professional about your options and your rights, and to do so before time robs you of certain rights. Below, we discuss the statute of limitations for sexual abuse in Texas. It can be a confusing matter to identify the applicable statute of limitations in any given case, so the best course of action is to contact an attorney as soon as possible to see if you have a viable claim. If you, your child, or someone else you care about has been the victim of sexual assault or sexual abuse, call a passionate Dallas sexual assault and sexual abuse attorney at the Turley Law Firm for help holding sexual assault perpetrators accountable for their actions.

What is a Statute of Limitations?

The statute of limitations is the legal time limit for filing a claim. Nearly every type of legal claim has a specific time limit. The statute of limitations varies depending upon the type of claim, state law, and other circumstances. The date on which the limitations period begins (the date the clock starts ticking) can also differ depending upon the specific circumstances of the case and the nature of the claim.

Statute of Limitations for Sexual Abuse of a Child

Texas sets different statutes of limitations depending on the nature of the victim and the nature of the perpetrator in sexual assault cases. The statute of limitations for a civil claim based on the sexual abuse of a child has changed in recent years. Until 2019, in Texas, the victim of sexual abuse as a child had 15 years from their 18th birthday to file a civil claim against the perpetrator. In 2019, legislators passed and the governor signed a new law to give child victims more time to bring sexual assault claims forward.

Now, victims of child sexual assault have a full 30 years to bring a claim against the perpetrator. The limitations period still begins on the plaintiff’s 18th birthday. In practice, then, most victims of sexual abuse as a child have until they turn 48 years old to file a civil claim for sexual assault against the perpetrator. As originally drafted, the bill exempted churches and religious institutions from the expanded time period. After protests from sexual assault victims, however, the bill was amended to remove that exception.

Statute of Limitations for Sexual Assault of an Adult

The statute of limitations to bring a claim for sexual assault as an adult is considerably shorter. Victims of sexual assault as an adult have only five years from the date of the alleged assault to bring their claims.

Regardless of whether your claim is based on abuse as a child or abuse as an adult, it’s important to contact an experienced sexual assault attorney as soon as you can. These cases take time to investigate and prove, and the more time that has passed, the more difficult it may be to obtain corroborating evidence or witness statements. The sooner you can take steps to vindicate yourself and your family, the stronger your claim will be.

Notably, the criminal statute of limitations for rape and other sexual assault charges is 10 years from the date of the offense. If between five and 10 years have passed, the perpetrator might still be arrested and sent to jail, but the victim and their family will be without civil recourse for compensation. There are additional exceptions to the criminal statute of limitations as well, such as instances in which no suspect has been identified or the defendant is a serial rapist.

If the concept of statutes of limitations seems confusing, you are not alone. Even experienced attorneys have to carefully review the facts in every instance to determine what the applicable filing deadlines are. The takeaway is that you should contact an attorney as soon as you think you have a claim you might want to follow up on, even if you think the allowable time period has passed.

If someone you love was abused as an adult or as a child in Texas, please contact the Turley Law Firm online or call 214-691-4025 or email turley@wturley.com today to schedule your free consultation. Our experienced Dallas sexual abuse attorneys serve clients throughout Texas and multiple Southern and Southwestern states.

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