What Is the Statute of Limitations for Childhood Sexual Abuse?

Child sexual abuse is a major issue. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), child protective services (CPS) agencies nationwide substantiate a new childhood sexual abuse claim every nine minutes. Investigators amassed evidence confirming as many as 57,329 cases like these in 2016. Additionally, RAINN’s research shows that 66% of those minors are between the ages of 12 and 17. If you were sexually abused as a minor here in West Virginia and want to know what the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse is, keep reading. We’ll explain what it is and how that impacts your right to take legal action.

What Statutes of Limitations Are

Before we delve into what statute of limitations applies to child sexual abuse cases, let’s discuss what this concept refers to. It is the timeline during which you can bring a civil claim or lawsuit against the perpetrator of wrongful acts in situations like these. Generally, you wouldn’t be able to file a claim or suit once the statutory filing timeline had lapsed. Filing deadlines like these vary by state and are subject to updating as new legislative action occurs.

Understanding How Long You Have To File a Claim as a Childhood Victim of Sexual Abuse

West Virginia Code §55-2-15 is the prevailing state statute that we must look to for information on the amount of time victims who endured sexual abuse as children have to take legal action. The 2020 update to this state statute specifies how minors have until age 36 to file suit in cases like these. However, that same state law also outlines an exception to this rule, which applies to situations where abuse is discovered sometime later. In that case, the later date is when the statute of limitations would expire.

How the 2020 Update Law Update Impacted Victim Rights

Until the West Virginia legislature passed House Bill 4559 in 2020, the civil statute of limitations that applied to child sexual abuse cases generally expired when the victim reached the age of 20. This deadline aligned with the 2-year post-incident filing timeline applicable to adult sexual abuse cases. For children, the prior way the above-referenced law, WV Code §55-2-15, was written afforded them two years from the time they reached the age of majority (18) to file suit. Thus, this is where the 20-year-old deadline came from.

Now, given the passing of the House Bill described above and its assimilation into the statute above, it’s allowed youth who were sexually abused to regain the right to hold their abusers and others who were permissive of or facilitated their harm liable for their actions.

According to a news story published by West Virginia Public Broadcasting in April 2023, the state-administered insurance program called the West Virginia Board of Risk and Insurance Management (BRIM) contended that, as of the publication date, they had at least 110 abuse claims pending. It’s likely at least some of those stemmed from child sexual abuse.

The West Virginia Child Sexual Abuse Case Statute of Limitations and You

As you’re likely aware, individuals who, like you, were sexually abused as children don’t just “outgrow” what they went through. In most cases, living through childhood sexual abuse leaves an imprint on a victim’s life that they cannot easily shake without professional intervention from a mental health or addictions counselor.

Receiving the dedicated care you need to cope with and rise above what you went through can be costly, especially given how you may find that you need a lifetime of care to ensure intrusive thoughts and nightmares of what you endured and dents to your self-esteem that you’ve sustained don’t continue to plague you.

Here at Hendrickson & Long Law, PLLC, we’ve helped numerous child sexual abuse victims like yourself hold responsible parties civilly liable for their illicit actions. We can help you do the same.

Whether you’re looking to pursue a claim after you were previously told you couldn’t because the filing window had closed or you’re seeking to file one for the first time, let’s discuss your rights. Meeting with one of our sexual abuse attorneys is free, so contact us to learn how we can help you now.