Visitor Question

Getting punitive damages in a case of child sexual abuse 20 years later?

Submitted By: Stacey (Maryland)

Beginning at the young age of four, my stepfather began having sex with me. The sexual abuse continued until I was 17. During this time, I had an abortion at 11, gave my first birth at the age of 12, second birth at the age of 14, third birth at the age of 16 and then the last birth by my stepfather at age 17.

Additionally, I endured physical and mental abuse at the hand of my stepfather and birth mother during those 17 years. I am currently working with counties in VA and MD to press charges against both of them.

I want to know why, in the state of VA and MD (or any state for that matter), there are no statutes of limitations on felony crimes, yet for victims of sexual abuse like me the statute of limitations has expired? There should not be any statute of limitations for victims of sexual abuse.

I am told that due to the extent and magnitude of the abuse I suffered through, and the psychological effects of which I continue to suffer at the age of 40, if I find the right lawyer I could get punitive damages. Is this possible? What do you think about a case like this? What can be done? Thank you.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear Stacey,

Unfortunately, the statute limitations for civil actions in both states has long expired.

As a result, you have lost your legal right to purse a civil claim for monetary damages against the abuser. Let’s hope the criminal actions are successful.

As a direct result, you will not have access to financial compensation, compensation for emotional distress, mental anguish and/or punitive damages. It is highly unlikely you will find an attorney who will agree to pursue a civil case against the abuser. You are nonetheless encouraged to speak with an attorney in your area.

Perhaps there is a specific law which will give you a way around the statute of limitations and allow you to pursue a lawsuit for compensation.

You certainly have an excellent point regarding the statutes. It is often argued there should not be a statute of limitations for civil actions related to felony child abuse crimes.

Learn more here: About Child Abuse & Restitution

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney.

Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call 888-972-0892.

We wish you the best with your claim,


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