Crimes and Tickets

Sexual Assault: Taking Action Years Later


Victims of sexual assault often need time to fully understand what happened to them. And it can take years before they have the courage to take action. The time limit for taking an aggressor to court is different for civil and criminal cases.

Making a Criminal Complaint

Sexual assault is a crime. There is no time limit for making a complaint of sexual assault to the police. Anyone who knows about a sexual assault can make the complaint, not just the victim.

The police investigate the complaint. Then the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions, often called the “Crown,” decides whether to formally accuse the suspect of a crime. So, a suspect’s trial might take place years after the sexual assault.

A person found guilty of sexual assault can be sent to prison.

The criminal court process can be difficult for victims. So, the law gives them special rights to ensure they play a role in the process.

Good to know! A specialized court for sexual and domestic violence will soon be available everywhere in Quebec. A pilot program is already up and running in ten regions of Quebec. To learn more, read our article “New Specialized Court for Sexual and Domestic Violence”. If you are experiencing sexual or domestic violence, see our list of resources that can help.

Civil Case: Asking for Compensation

The victim of sexual assault can take the aggressor to court in a civil case. The purpose is to ask for an amount of money to compensate for the harm the victim suffered.

Victims can take the aggressor to court in a civil case even if no criminal complaint was made. Criminal and civil cases are different.

A victim can sue an aggressor even if the sexual assault occurred many years ago. However, time limits to sue may vary. Victims can contact a lawyer to find out which time limit applies to their situation. In all cases, the time limit starts running at the same moment: when the victim understands that the negative effects they suffered are the result of the sexual assault.  

If the aggressor has died, the victim can sue the aggressor’s estate. However, the victim must file the lawsuit within three years of the aggressor’s death.

Resources for victims

Refer to our article on the various resources available for victims.