In the state of Illinois, the statute of limitations concerning child sexual abuse cases involves the amount of time a lawsuit can be initiated by the injured victim. Recently, an ongoing movement in the state legislature was passed in an effort to extend the amount of time limits for filing charges in cases involving childhood sex abuse. This newly enacted law would allow the victim to obtain justice over a far-reaching amount of time.
The new bill would do away with the current 10-year period where criminal charges could be pursued for a sexual abuse crime, when the victim was a child at the time of the event. In addition, the state currently maintains a statute of limitations of 20 years for filing a sexual abuse case in civil court.
The time limit begins when the victim of the abuse discovers or remembers the childhood sexual abuse event. This extended time is often required because many victims of sexual abuse are not aware of the event, or the perpetrator, until late in life. In some incidences, victims were too young to identify the perpetrator, until seeing a photo or discussing the event with others.
The Need for a Change
Attorneys handling child abuse cases often represent victims sexually abused by others in the community that include clergy members, caregivers, neighbors, family members, teachers and others. In addition to criminal charges being filed against the perpetrator, many victims choose to pursue matters for financial recompense in civil court to hold the pedophile accountable.
Usually, time limitations put specific restraints compensating the victim and prosecuting perpetrators. Typically, many victims of childhood sexual abuse are unable to remember the injuries caused by the sexual abuse until after maturity, often times in their 30s or early 40s. Because of that, the time limit made it too late for the court system to intervene by compensating the victim and/or punishing the abuser.
Clear scientific data demonstrates that victims of childhood trauma including sexual abuse often suffer psychological injuries. These types of injuries cause many to lose memory of the traumatic event, or inhibit their capacity for processing the memory of the event in a cognitive or verbal way.
Time limitations create a significant side effect involving the public. Because the perpetrator cannot be prosecuted once the statute of limitations expires, and a civil lawsuit cannot be filed against the sexual abuse action, the public remains unaware of the abuse. In addition, the childhood sex abuse perpetrator is able to walk away from their crime, while the victim is left with few options other than feeling isolated.
Creating an Awareness
Attorney specializing in childhood sexual abuse cases have long recognized the need to change the law. This is because many victims of childhood sexual abuse experience severe and debilitating consequences. This often includes drug addiction, alcoholism, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), sexual dysfunction, gambling addiction, sexual addiction, suicide, low self-esteem and challenges in maintaining personal and family relationships.
Allowing the victim to move forward to have criminal courts prosecute the perpetrator and civil attorneys file a lawsuit has helped the public. It has exposed many patterns of abuse, incarcerated child sex abusers and made parents more vigilant when protecting the child. Criminal and civil actions have helped many victims of childhood sexual abuse, and the public by exposing the perpetrator.
In Illinois, light needs to be shed on this extremely dark subject. Clearly, this statute of limitations problem needs to be addressed to provide the best opportunities for victims of childhood sexual abuse to recover from the complications, shame and guilt caused by the event.
Many victims will not or cannot report their childhood sexual abuse trauma until many years later. Others are unaware that some of their problems in life are a direct response to the abuse. Only by correcting societal wrongs can Illinois better serve the community by prosecuting the perpetrator and providing the opportunity for the victim to be compensated in civil court.