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If I Was Sexually Abused as a Child Can I Still Sue?

Pursing Childhood Sexual Abuse Charges as an Adult

Childhood sexual abuse is a topic that most people would rather not think about; it is a horrific thought. Unfortunately, for far too many, it is an even more horrifying reality. For the children that suffer sexual abuse, the ramifications can be long-lasting, especially if the abuse goes unnoticed or unstopped into adulthood. Remaining silent is the norm for most childhood sexual abuse victims but today’s society has seen a higher percentage of people willing to come forward with their stories than in generations past. This is a very difficult thing for victims, but nonetheless, it is very important.

Can I Sue as an Adult for Childhood Sexual Abuse?

The laws on instigating charges and lawsuits as an adult for sexual abuse incurred as a child vary from state to state. However, most states today have increased the statute of limitations and the ability to sue as an adult is more prevalent than ever before. This is one of the only silver linings to come of the far-reaching scandal within the Roman Catholic Church related to this topic. The fact that childhood sexual abuse was given such publicity and global press helped to encourage other childhood victims to come forward. Legislatures everywhere took note. Today, adults who were sexually abused as children (whether by clergy, parents, teachers or anyone else) have the ability to come forward and seek justice.

The Difference Between Criminal and Civil Charges

Anyone who, as an adult, wishes to pursue a lawsuit or other action against another for sexual abuse that occurred during childhood, has the option of filing either criminal or civil charges (perhaps even both in some states, depending upon local laws and the statutes of limitations).

  • Criminal charges are those that would ultimately result in prison time or some other related penalty if the accused perpetrator is found guilty.
  • Civil lawsuits would result in some form of compensation, typically financial in nature, in favor of the plaintiff.

For anyone considering what type of charges or action to bring against another for childhood sexual abuse, it would be advised to learn the local laws for both avenues and seek appropriate counsel before determining which way to go (which may include both).

Reasons to Pursue Justice as an Adult

The reasons that childhood sexual abuse victims pursue justice as adults vary from situation to situation. However, there are some common themes that arise frequently. For some people, there is an innate sense of need for vindication and justice. Somebody did something wrong to them and they should be held accountable. As a child, the victim may likely not have been capable of pursuing the appropriate justice, but as an adult, they are more than able to take on the task with more tools and information available.

Additionally, as adults, victims are able to understand and personally connect with the need to protect others from the same or similar events. Taking action against their own predator is one way of sending the message that abusing a child is not something that can be hidden or that the abuser is free from the abuse. The more that people hear about sexual abusers being caught, charged and/or sentenced, the greater the chance than a potential new perpetrator may think twice before abusing a child. Similarly, others who are around children may become more aware of the warning signs and catch abuse early on, rather than let it continue for years unnoticed.

While there is no cut-and-dried answer to how or when an adult can sue for abuse incurred as a child, the bottom line is that it is always important to try. Talk to local authorities or legal professionals who work in that specific type of law to see if there is some action that can be taken to get justice. It is in everyone’s best interest to do so.

If you would like to discuss your legal options for civil litigation against your abuser, please do not hesitate to contact our legal team today!