Sexual assault and abuse can result in years of trauma, fear and uncertainty. Each victim processes the life-altering aftermath differently. Some feel ready to press charges right away, while others may take years to cope and heal before they even consider pressing charges.

As of January 2020, victims no longer have to worry about running out of time to file charges. A new Illinois law eliminates the statute of limitations – the maximum period of time in which you can initiate legal proceedings – on major sex crimes.

The new law is a victory for survivors of assault. But it is important to know that despite the statute of limitations being lifted, sexual assault must be reported to the authorities within three years of the incident in order to press charges at any point down the line.

Prior to this law, victims over age 18 had 10 years from the time they reported the crime to press charges. Illinois had already removed the statute of limitations for minors in 2017, when evidence emerged that former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert had abused underage boys in the 1960s and ‘70s.

Illinois became the eighth state to remove its statute of limitations on major sex crimes, joining:

  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming
  • District of Columbia

Why now?

Illinois eliminated this statute of limitations in light of the #MeToo movement, and during a time that advances in DNA testing have allowed authorities to solve old cases. The law was specifically inspired by a woman who was sexually assaulted but didn’t know if she could press charges within the time frame due to issues with evidence collection.

Because of the new law, she will no longer have to worry.

You never know how you may deal with a sexual assault until you’re forced to. You may feel ready to immediately press charges, or it may take years of recovery before you even consider it. The important part is that every victim now has the right to seek justice in court – on their own timeline.