Kentucky’s Statutes of Limitations for Sexual Assault and Child Sexual Abuse

Statutes of Limitations in KYIn recent years, Kentucky has taken steps to strengthen its sexual assault laws and support survivors of sexual assaults. Legislative changes have included extending the statute of limitations for reporting sexual assault crimes and allowing survivors more time to come forward to seek justice. The state has also worked to improve the resources available to survivors, including specialized victim services, counseling, and support programs.

While Kentucky is combatting sexual assault and making strides to give victims the rights they deserve, our state still holds a top spot for having a high rate of child sexual abuse. In 2020, Kentucky held the 5th highest rate of child maltreatment,  and while this is an improvement upon the number one spot it held in 2019, there is still much work to be done in the commonwealth.

It is important for survivors of sexual assault in Kentucky to know their rights and available legal options. Reporting a sexual assault to law enforcement is a crucial step towards holding perpetrators accountable. Survivors can also seek assistance from local advocacy organizations, crisis centers, and rape crisis hotlines, which provide confidential support, guidance, and referrals to other services.

How long do I have to file a sexual assault lawsuit in Kentucky?

In Kentucky, the statute of limitations for sexual assault cases has undergone significant changes in recent years. Prior to 2016, the statute of limitations for most sexual assault offenses was five years. However, in 2016, the state legislature passed Senate Bill 63, extending the statute of limitations for several sexual offenses. Under the current Kentucky law, there is no criminal statute of limitations for most sexual assault crimes. This includes offenses such as rape and first degree sexual abuse.

However, there are limitations for filing a civil lawsuit for the recovery of damages for injury or illness suffered as a result of sexual assault.

If you are an adult survivor of sexual assault

Under KRS 413.140, adult survivors generally have one (1) year to file a lawsuit for “an injury to the person of the plaintiff, or of her husband, his wife, child, ward, apprentice, or servant.” Most forms of sexual assault will fall under this “catch all” statute when the survivor is assaulted as an adult.

If the person who assaulted you was a medical professional

You also have one (1) year to file “an action against a physician, surgeon, dentist, or hospital licensed pursuant to KRS Chapter 216, for negligence or malpractice.” In other words, if you were assaulted, raped, abused, or otherwise harmed by a medical professional, or if the abuse took place in a hospital, you can make a claim.

However, the statute of limitations may be extended to five (5) years from the date of the sexual assault if “the cause of action shall be deemed to accrue at the time the injury is first discovered or in the exercise of reasonable care should have been discovered.”

If you were a child when you were sexually assaulted or abused

Under current law, if you wish to seek compensation for harm you suffered as a child due to sexual abuse or assault, you can only file a civil suit:

  • Within ten (10) years of the commission of the act or the last of a series of acts by the same perpetrator;
  • Within ten (10) years of the date the victim knew, or should have known, of the act;
  • Within ten (10) years after the victim attains the age of eighteen (18) years; or
  • Within ten (10) years of the conviction of a civil defendant for an offense included in the definition of childhood sexual assault or abuse.

Kentucky has also implemented a "delayed discovery" provision for victims of child sexual abuse. This means that if a victim discovers their abuse at a later stage in life, the statute of limitations begins to run from the date of that discovery. This provision acknowledges the psychological and emotional challenges survivors may face in coming to terms with their abuse and allows them the opportunity to seek justice even after a significant amount of time has passed.

Kentucky’s troubling child sexual assault statistics

Child sexual abuse is a significant issue that affects communities across the United States, especially Kentucky. The state has faced alarming statistics regarding child abuse, with Kentucky often ranking among the highest in the nation for child abuse rates. This distressing reality highlights the urgent need for awareness, prevention, and support for survivors.

According to the recently released "Child Maltreatment 2021" report from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Children's Bureau, Kentucky has displayed concerning statistics regarding child abuse victims. The report reveals that in 2021, Kentucky had a child abuse victim rate of 14.7 per 1,000 children. This indicates that approximately 15 children out of every 1,000 in Kentucky experienced some form of maltreatment during that year. In comparison, the national average victim rate for the same period was 8.1, significantly lower than what was reported in Kentucky. These figures highlight the need for increased attention and intervention to address child abuse in the state.

The abuse cases stated above involve various forms of abuse, including sexual abuse. Child sexual abuse occurs when an adult individual engages in any sexual activity with a minor, which can cause significant emotional, psychological, and physical harm to the victim.

What is Kentucky doing to change these statistics?

Recognizing the devastating impact of child sexual abuse, Kentucky has taken steps to address this issue and support survivors. The state has enacted legislation aimed at extending the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases, allowing survivors more time to seek legal action against their abusers. Additionally, a new bill is being introduced that could eliminate the statute of limitations altogether for child sexual abuse cases. Furthermore, Kentucky has implemented measures to provide resources and support services for survivors, including counseling, therapy, and advocacy programs.

Community organizations and agencies in Kentucky have also played a crucial role in raising awareness and preventing child sexual abuse. They offer educational programs, training sessions, and outreach initiatives to educate the public, empower survivors, and promote a safe and supportive environment for children.

Survivors of child sexual abuse in Kentucky often face significant challenges in coming forward due to fear, shame, and the complex dynamics surrounding the abuse. However, it is important for survivors to know that they are not alone, and support is available to help them heal and seek justice. By speaking out and accessing resources, survivors can find the support they need to navigate the healing process and reclaim their lives.

How can Kentucky help protect all sexual assault survivors?

If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual assault or child sexual abuse in Kentucky, it is crucial to reach out to local authorities, support organizations, or helplines dedicated to assisting survivors. These resources can provide guidance, support, and information about the available legal options for seeking justice and holding perpetrators accountable.

Ultimately, addressing child sexual abuse requires a collective effort from individuals, communities, and the government to prioritize the safety, well-being, and rights of children. By raising awareness, implementing preventive measures, and providing comprehensive support services, Kentucky can continue working towards creating a safer environment for all children and supporting survivors on their journey to healing and recovery.

While progress has been made, challenges remain in addressing sexual assault effectively. These challenges include societal attitudes, underreporting, and the need for ongoing education and awareness. Continued efforts to raise awareness, provide support services, and foster a culture of consent and respect are essential in preventing sexual assault and supporting survivors in Kentucky.

Survivors should also consult with a knowledgeable attorney who focuses on sexual assault cases in Kentucky to understand the specific details and requirements for filing a lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations. At Wilt Injury Lawyers, we guide survivors through the legal process, ensure their rights are protected, and help them seek the justice they deserve. If you would like to schedule a free consultation, call us or use our contact form. We maintain offices in Lexington and Louisville, and proudly serve clients throughout Kentucky.