How Long Is Too Long To Report Rape?
Yesterday at a "Take back the night" rally organized in response to the recent wave of sexual assaults in the Queen City, a rape survivor bravely stood in front of a crowd of over 200 local residents to share details related to her traumatic life event.
In attendance were several local elected officials and the speaker took the opportunity to ask one request from them: "Please pass legislation to end the statute of limitations". She also shared that, based on the evidence presented, an attorney strongly felt that her case would be successful in the court of law - however, the statute of limitations in the State of New York would prevent him from pursuing legal action.
The plead coming from someone who poured her heart out onto a crowd full of complete strangers begs the question: how long is too long to report a rape?
I'm certain a compelling argument could be made for or against a statute of limitations, and I admit that I know very little pertaining what the rationale is behind placing a statute of limitations on certain crimes. So I'm curious to know: what are your thoughts about statutes of limitations in general? Let me know what you think by taking the poll below.
Click here if poll does not display above: "Is it just to have a statute of limitations on rape?"
Are there statutes of limitations on sexual abuse crimes in New York?*
Yes, in New York, there are time limitations on both when you can prosecute AND sue for sexual abuse. However, It is important to remember that the criminal statute of limitations that applies is the one that was in place at the time of the crime itself. So while it may have been lengthened in the time since, if the limitation ran out, it can NOT be reactivated. (Whether this is also the case for civil suits is currently being debated in many states).
If you are the victim of abuse, the first thing you must decide is whether you are pursuing something criminally or civilly, as the statute of limitation is usually different between the two of them.
Unlike most states, New York does not have a specific statute of limitations (SOL) for sexual abuse, instead relying on the type of claim filed to determine what the SOL would be.
If the abuse is treated as an intentional act of the abuser, the SOL is only a single year.
If it is an action against an institution (like a church or school) for hiring or supervising the abuser, then the SOL extends to three years.
Any suit based on negligence is also three years.
However, New York is like most other jurisdictions in that it doesn't begin enforcing statutes of limitation until after you become an adult (over 18 years old). This means that if one wanted to directly sue the abuser for abuse suffered as a child, you would have one year from your 18th birthday to do it. If you wanted to sue a church for hiring a abusive clergyman, you would have three years from your 18th birthday.
Concurrently, should an abuser or institution be convicted of criminal offenses, the victim (of those crimes) has 7 - 10 years (depending on the crime) to sue them (starting from the date of the crime), regardless of whether the other SOL has already passed. This is a bit confusing, but it basically provides another way to sue an abuser if the normal SOL has already run out.
The unwieldiness of this system is perhaps why there are currently many efforts in the state legislature to change the rules, and even calls from the Governor for the SOL to be removed from child-sex crimes all together. This law is likely to shift drastically in the future, so your best bet is to contact an attorney familiar with any recent changes in the law in your jurisdiction.