If I was molested as child Child 20 years ago, is there anything that I can do now?
I am 28 and was molested by my uncle who is a doctor in TN when I was around 7 or 8 years-old. I just found out he touched my younger sister as well. He scared us into not telling and no one else knew until recently. I live in FL. Is there anything at all that I can do about this. He owns a family practice and I'm sure will have better lawyers than me. I need help, this has affected my life and I am lost.
First you need to take care of yourself emotionally by confiding in someone and getting help. It was not you fault. You were a little child and he took advantage of that. You may feel lost but you are young and you can re-claim your life if you decide to take the necessary steps. May I say that writing this question is an indication that you have taken that first step.
Florida does technically have both a criminal and civil sexual abuse statutes of limitations (SOL), but the civil SOL has a rather large loopholes that can usually allow most anyone to bring up a lawsuit.
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).
Example: A man commits an act of molestation in 1965, when there was a 3 year SOL on the crime. In 1970, the legislature removes the SOL from child molestation. The man can still not be prosecuted, because the SOL had expired before the law was changed. If the law had been changed in 1968, however, he could be prosecuted.
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.
In Florida, the filing of a civil claim dealing with sexual abuse or incest may be commenced at any time within:
- 7 years after the age of majority (any time before your 25th birthday),
- 4 years after you leave the dependency of the abuser (even if you are older than 25), or
- 4 years from the time of your discovery of both the injury and the causal relationship between the injury and the abuse.
The last provision deals with the "delayed discovery rule." Florida is one of 28 states to have such a rule, which effectively extends the statute of limitations for sexual abuse. Taking into account the unique nature of sexual abuse, the stigma associated with it, and the likelihood of "repressed memories," Florida allows the statute of limitations not to begin until the victim "either knows or reasonably should know of the wrongful act giving rise to the cause of action." This means that adults who "discover" that they were abused long ago have 4 years from such a discovery to file a claim, regardless of their age.
However, the law says it cannot be used retroactively, and there is great debate in many state legislatures about that very premise, and many lawyers are trying to challenge it. Your best bet is to contact an attorney familiar with any recent changes in the law in your jurisdiction.
For criminal cases, a prosecutor may file a charge of aggravated rape at any time, regardless of the age of the victim and with no time limitation (an aggravated rape is generally a rape that involves a weapon, more than one person, or seriously injures the victim).
Prosecution for sexual assault or abuse has a statute of limitations of four years. However, there is an exception made for DNA analysis, which allows for the prosecution of a rapist anytime within one year of the discovery of DNA evidence, even if it is discovered after the ordinary statute of limitations period ran out.
In regards to child molestation specifically, there have recently been many changes to the statute of limitations nationwide. Indeed, eleven states have completely removed the limitations for child-sex crimes in the past 10 years. But after the Supreme court ruled that retroactively changing the statute of limitations (in order to prosecute crimes from long ago) was unconstitutional, many states were forced to scrap plans to do just that (Florida was one such state). The current law only allows four years from the date of the incident, but the law is likely to change soon, as there are many bills on the floor (as of 2006) to extend it to 10 years.
What's more, Florida has an extremely large number of complicated exceptions to it's limitation rules.
So you took the first step by writing here. That should give you the strength to call an attorney about all this complicated legal stuff. It is important to act quickly in this regard. And then take the next step and speak with someone about getting yourself emotionally healthy. Good luck to you. You should be proud of yourself that you had the strength to come forward even here. It took great courage.