Illinois Strikes Time Limits to Criminally Prosecute Sexual Abuse of Minors

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In August 2017, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed into the law SB 189, an amendment to the criminal code regarding sexual abuse of minors. The new law allows for prosecution of sexual abuse of children at any time, basically completely eradicating the statute of limitations for criminal cases. Previously, the victim had 20 years after attaining the age of majority at 18 to come forward for a criminal prosecution to take place. This law is hailed as progress and an achievement for individuals who have been childhood victims of sexual abuse. Some of these people harmed as minors do not understand what happened to them as young children, or they have repressed the memories. This new law allows police and prosecutors to pursue criminal perpetrators of sexual abuse without time limitations, and reads as follows:

(j)(1) When the victim is under 18 years of age at the time of the offense, a prosecution for criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual assault, predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, aggravated criminal sexual abuse, or felony criminal sexual abuse may be commenced at any time.

Note that this new law affects criminal prosecutions of sexual abuse of minors in Illinois, not civil actions. However, Illinois does have an extended time period to file a civil lawsuit for personal injury for childhood sexual abuse victims. Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 735, § 13-202.2(b) allows a victim 10 years after discovering the injury and that the injury was caused by child sexual abuse:

§ 13-202.2(b): An action for damages for personal injury based on childhood sexual abuse must be commenced within 10 years of the date the victim discovers that the act of childhood sexual abuse occurred and that the injury was caused by the childhood sexual abuse.

Anyone thinking about disclosing their childhood abuse in criminal and civil court should have a personal injury attorney evaluating the situation and offering legal advice and options. Individuals who speak out against these horrific crimes need support to shine a bright light on these criminal behaviors.