Women and Justice: Keywords

Domestic Case Law

S. v. Cayouette Supreme Court of Virginia (1992)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

The defendant sexually abused the plaintiff between 1969 and 1978 when she was 5-14 years old. The plaintiff turned 18, the age of majority in Virginia, in 1982. She first received information from her psychologist regarding the causal connection between the childhood sexual abuse and the severe emotional harm she manifested in March 1990, and she subsequently filed a lawsuit against defendant for the abuse in July 1991. However, the trial court dismissed the lawsuit as untimely. The issue before the Virginia Supreme Court was whether, upon the lapse of the time fixed in the statute of limitations and the tolling statute (the grace period before the statute of limitations begins), the defendant acquired a right protected by due process guarantees notwithstanding a recent statute by the legislature with provisions to: (a) retroactively apply a ten-year statute of limitations . . . in cases in which the statute of limitations had expired . . . and (b) to create a twelve-month period during which such cases could be filed regardless of when the cause of action accrued. In affirming the lower court’s ruling the Virginia Supreme Court reaffirmed its well-established principle that the legislature possesses the power to enact retrospective legislation only if the statute is not destructive of vested rights. Here, defendant’s statute of limitations defense was a vested right. Infant plaintiff suffered an injury in that "she experienced positive, physical or mental hurt" each time defendant committed a wrongful act against her "and her right of action accrued on that date." The last such act was committed in 1978. Because plaintiff was 14 years old at that time, the statute of limitations was tolled until she attained her majority in 1982. The two-year time limitation expired in 1984. At that time defendant right to a statute of limitations defense vested and could not be repealed by subsequent legislation. The court therefore affirmed the lower courts’ ruling that defendant had acquired a right protected by due process guarantees and plaintiff’s suit was untimely.

Levenstein v. Frankel Constitutional Court (2018)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

The case was initially brought to the High Court by individuals who had suffered childhood sexual molestation by the deceased, a prominent financier and philanthropist, in the 1970s and ‘80s. The applicants were unable to pursue criminal charges due of the effect of s18(f) of the Criminal Procedure Act 1997, which imposed a 20-year statute of limitations for most sexual offences (excluding rape, sexual trafficking, and using a child or a mentally disabled person for pornographic purposes). However, the High Court found s18(f) to be unconstitutional. The Constitutional Court affirmed, removing the statute of limitations for prosecuting all sexual offences.

Supreme Court Decision 2002Do51 Supreme Court of South Korea (2012)

Sexual violence and rape

The Defendant raped the Victim in a car on several occasions. In addition to raping the Victim, the Defendant threatened the Victim and committed violence against the Victim. The lower court dismissed the rape charges filed by the Victim, finding that the six-month statute of limitations under Article 230 Item I of the Criminal Procedure Act had passed. The Supreme Court of South Korea reversed, noting that Article 2 (1) 3 of the Act on the Punishment of Sexual Crimes and Protection of Victims ("the Sexual Crimes Act") defines rape under Article 297 of the Criminal Act as a sexual crime and extends the statute of limitations to one year. While the Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s dismissal of the rape charges, it noted that since only the Victim can bring rape charges, any violence or threats of violence used in connection with the rape are elements of the crime of rape and cannot be prosecuted separately.

Van Zijl v. Hoogenhout (2004)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

The appellant suffered years of sexual abuse by her uncle, the respondent, during her childhood.   She sued him for damages at the age of 48 and the respondent claimed that her suit should have been brought within one year of her attaining her majority. The Court held that the victim of sexual abuse as a child who only in adulthood acquired an appreciation of the responsibility of the abuser for the abuse may sue the abuser within three years of acquiring that appreciation.


Code of Virginia: When cause of action shall be deemed to accrue in certain personal actions (Va. Code § 8.01-249(6))

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

This section of the Virginia Code provides that a cause of action resulting from sexual abuse during incapacity or infancy accrues upon the later of (1) the removal of incapacity or infancy or (2) when facts of the injury and its causal connection to the sexual abuse is first communicated to the person by a licensed physician or psychologist.