Florida churches and other religious institutions are places where people should feel safe, loved and cared for. So when the unthinkable happens (sexual abuse of any kind), it can be difficult to know how to move forward – in fact, most people get traumatized for their entire lives. The only way to get justice is to file a lawsuit. However, it is important to note that there are statutes of limitations that apply.
Statute of limitations
Statute of limitations are laws that specify the maximum amount of time a plaintiff has to file a lawsuit for an offense after it occurred. If this period passes, the plaintiff will no longer have the right to sue the defendant in civil court.
Filing a sexual abuse lawsuit against a priest or religious organization
In Florida, victims of sexual abuse or assault have a four-year statute of limitations for filing lawsuits against both religious organizations and priests. The clock starts ticking from the last instance of abuse or from the date the victim became aware that the abuse occurred.
However, if it was a case of sexual battery (oral, anal or vaginal penetration with the sexual organ of another or an object) against victims younger than 16 years old, Donna’s Law that was passed in 2020 eliminated the statute of limitations for all victims, regardless of the age they decide to file a lawsuit. But sexual offenses that occurred prior to July 1, 2020, will follow the standard statute of limitations.
It can be incredibly difficult to pursue a sexual abuse lawsuit, but survivors of such abuse need to know that they have legal options if they decide to do so. If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual abuse, it is important to take prompt action because time may be finite.