View Full Version : Adult coming forward with child abuse and escaping captivity

Rina Evans
11-15-2016, 04:54 PM
Hi! I'm having a hard time wrangling this situation. I have a character who escaped captivity. He's in his thirties and his father held him captive for a few years. Prior to that, he'd been physically, sexually and emotionally abused as a child and as an adult. The abuse happened in multiple US states. He ran to his brother who lives in a state where no abuse ever occurred.

I'm having a hard time figuring out what to do with him, even after trying to research it. The multiple states thing is giving me a problem. What about the statute of limitations? If my character wanted his father to pay for this, what could the father be legally responsible for? The captivity and current abuse, for sure. Would he have to go back to the state where it happened? Can he pursue and file a report in/from the new state? Would it be a police or FBI case?

11-15-2016, 07:29 PM
The answer may depend on the states in question. Would you identify them?

Rina Evans
11-15-2016, 07:55 PM
Yes, he's currently in California with his brother. The captivity occurred in Arizona. Prior to that, they lived all across the Midwest (Kansas, Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri). The family moved a lot for work. Other than California, none of the other states matter and could be changed.

11-15-2016, 09:45 PM
It becomes a federal crime if a kidnapped victim is transported across state lines.

For sexual abuse, statutes of limitation vary by state. If you commit crimes in different states they would be treated as separate crimes.

11-15-2016, 09:49 PM
You'll need to do a considerable bit of research, especially with the appropriate state agencies. From a federal perspective you can start here:





Keep in mind that the statute of limitations will likely be an issue (and potentially open to considerable argument in affected jurisdictions). Best of luck!

Rina Evans
11-15-2016, 10:23 PM
So I suppose it would be very complicated, then. Especially if they constantly moved across the Midwest when the character was a kid and as an adult. He's 32 so that simplifies it, as a lot of it was too long ago.

Thank you all for the help and links!

11-15-2016, 11:56 PM
Statute of limitations here would be interesting. If he has been held captive, that would prevent him from notifying authorities. The statute of limitations would probably not begin to run until he escaped. In addition, childhood abuse in many cases has a very extended statute of limitations. In New Hampshire, it frequently runs until someone is forty, or even older.

Prosecution of multi-state crimes is both complicated and simple. If we look at the crime, we can figure out what the maximum sentence is likely to be. In this case, if he was held captive and has been sexually abused by the same person, we're looking at life in prison. It is very likely to be a capital crime. So now the investigators/prosecutors of the effected jurisdictions meet and look at the state that looks like it is most likely to get the maximum. A US attorney/FBI/US Marshall would probably also be involved. Unless there are publicity reasons for multiple states to prosecute, you usually end up with one state prosecuting.

Remember that if in your case California can get a life sentence, there's no sense in prosecuting the rest of the cases. After all, you can only do one life sentence. (Yes, you can be sentenced to a lot more, but you're only going to do one of them.) There's no sense in wasting time and resources on multiple prosecution unless a prosecutor is going to gain some publicity out of it. And even then, most defendants will plead rather than go through a bunch of trials.

So instead of going through a bunch of states, you pick the one that is the best. In this case, it's going to be the best for your story. In the real world, it's the state that has the best laws for hitting this guy out of the park. But for your story, you justify this by saying that the state you chose has a prosecutor who wants to nail this guy to the wall and mount him as a trophy.

Jim Clark-Dawe

11-16-2016, 02:22 AM
Does he have any proof, or is it his word against his father's?

Rina Evans
11-17-2016, 01:43 AM
Thank you for the lengthy answer, that was very helpful

Does he have any proof, or is it his word against his father's?
He can show where he was held captive and he has scars from physical abuse, old and new.

11-17-2016, 01:54 AM
He can show where he was held captive and he has scars from physical abuse, old and new.
You never know what a jury will do, but I think that unless someone finds him locked in the dungeon or whatever a defense attorney could could say, "You're 30 years old! Do you think we're going to believe that your aging father could hold you against your will? How do we not know that this was your sex dungeon and you ailing father couldn't get down there to find it?"

Rina Evans
11-17-2016, 01:58 AM
Well, of course the defense attorney will always have their defense. That's what happens during trials. And his father is 52, hardly aging.

11-17-2016, 07:10 AM
I'm having a hard time figuring out what to do with him, even after trying to research it.

Hit him with a 2x4. Buy him a Ferrari. Kick him off a cliff. Send him to Guam to study sea birds. What does your story require for him to do?

As far as criminal or civil issues, there are plenty. Kidnapping may be hard to prove. If a person is forced to move with a parent, that's called growing up. If the father did not have legal custody, then it's a Federal kidnap and transportation across state lines. If the abuse was sexual, and a case can be justified, the prosecutors may argue as to who gets it first. Or they may all all decline the case. If it's physical abuse, it depends on the abuse. Spanking is still legal, even in California. If there is no medical history, there may be no proof. Mental abuse is always a fun one to write about but poor prospects for prosecution.

Is there a civil case? Can he sue? Does the father have deep pockets or could a reputation loss be a reason to pay? There are a million ways that side can go too.

None of those answers matter unless they fit your story needs. Is the story about making the father pay, criminally, monetarily, or just morally? Or is it about the victim's struggle? Or is it a story of revenge? It would be so possible to drop this character in a dozen different situations and have entirely different stories.

So, what do you need this character to do? Why does he do it? What are the results?

That's your answer to the question.


11-17-2016, 09:18 PM
A lack of evidence will keep this out of U.S. courts (state and federal). Keep in mind that a criminal conviction requires evidence of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; a finding for a party in a civil case requires a preponderance (51%) of evidence. If you have no evidence other than one party's assertion/word, you basically have no case/no legal standing. OTOH, cases without merit are frequently filed, only to be eventually dismissed--sometimes with prejudice (prohibited from being filed again). Your options become quite limited; retribution, vengeance, etc. If your victim (MC?) does nothing but embrace the martyrdom and wallow in self-pity, do you still have a story? Think this through--what tale do you want to tell?

11-18-2016, 03:53 AM
He can show where he was held captive and he has scars from physical abuse, old and new.

This is what wins or loses this case. What does where he was held captive show? Take a look at the stories of the various women who have been held captive and what the physical evidence was. You can set this up for whatever your story needs, but in the real world, nearly all of these cases end up with the defendant taking a plea bargain.

Jim Clark-Dawe