This is an excerpt from my forthcoming book that may be helpful for you.
In many states and other jurisdictions, statute-of-limitations laws have changed in the past few years. That is, for most crimes, with the noteworthy exception of murder, an unreported crime cannot result in legal action after a certain amount of time has passed. So if a person is accused of theft, for example, after the statute of limitations has expired in that state he cannot be criminally prosecuted.
In recent years, anti-child abuse advocates have campaigned for changes to the laws in their states to allow more time for a criminal or civil complaint to be filed. Some states, like New Jersey, have raised the statute of limitations on sexual abuse from two years after the offense to the age of 20, up to which time a report can still be made. Previously that meant a child who had been sexually abused at age twelve had two years from the date of the abuse to report it for criminal action. Now that person can do so up to age 20. Other states have put longer time frames on the initial report, and some jurisdictions will start the clock from the time memories of the abuse first surface. This allows those who repressed memories to come forward even decades after the abuse took place.
Civil lawsuits, which donít involve criminal prosecution, have different statutes of limitations, and if a survivor is contemplating a lawsuit for damages from a perpetrator, he should check with a lawyer familiar with these statutes. Civil lawsuits also generally have a different (i.e. less rigorous) burden of proof than criminal actions. Think of the O.J. Simpson trials of the 1990s in which he was acquitted of the criminal charges but found liable for the deaths of his wife and her friend in the civil action. Such distinctions in the burden of proof would apply whether one is thinking about criminal or civil actions. However, the decision to undertake criminal proceedings would ultimately be up to the district attorney or county prosecutor.
Blissfully retired after 35 years treating sexual abuse