A statute of limitations (SOL) sets the amount of time a victim or prosecutor has to file a lawsuit. Typically, if you file a lawsuit after the SOL expires, your case will be dismissed. Indiana has different criminal and civil sexual abuse statutes of limitations.

It is important to report sexual abuse as quickly as possible. Early investigation may lead to stronger evidence in your case. Additionally, the statute of limitations that applies is the one that existed at the time of the abuse.  This means that even though the SOL may have been lengthened since the incident, it typically cannot renew time-barred cases.  

Civil Lawsuits for Sexual Abuse

In a civil lawsuit, a victim of sexual abuse demands compensation and damages from his or her abuser. You may be entitled to economic and non-economic damages, including compensation for your pain and suffering.

Indiana imposes a longer statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse cases. If you are a victim of childhood abuse, you must file your civil case within:

  • Seven years of your 18th birthday,
  • Seven years from the time you could have reasonably discovered the abuse, or
  • Four years from the end of your dependency on an abuser.

Adult sexual abuse cases must be filed within two years of the incident.

If sexual abuse occurs at your workplace, you may also have a sexual harassment lawsuit under federal law. You must file a complaint (or charge) with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 300 days of the sexual abuse or harassment. The EEOC will investigate your claim and determine whether it will pursue a lawsuit on your behalf. If it decides not to litigate your claim, it will issue a Right to Sue letter. You must file a lawsuit within 90 days of the EEOC’s Right to Sue letter.  

Criminal Cases for Sexual Abuse

Criminal cases are filed by the State of Indiana on behalf of a victim. In order to file criminal charges, you must notify law enforcement of the sexual abuse. The authorities will investigate your claims and a prosecutor may file charges against your abuser. If a suspect is found guilty of criminal conduct, he or she may be sentenced to significant jail time and sex offender registration.

In Indiana, the criminal statute of limitations varies, depending on the severity of the offense. They include:

  • No SOL for violent sexual assaults and sexual assault of a minor by a perpetrator who is at least 21 years old,
  • Five years from the event for other adult felony sexual offenses,
  • By the victim’s 31st birthday, if involving:
    • Child molestation,
    • Vicarious sexual gratification with a minor,
    • Solicitation of a child,
    • Seduction of a child, or
    • Incest
  • For other child sexual abuse charges: within 10 years of the act or within four years of becoming independent from the abuser(whichever is later), and
  • Two years from the offense in misdemeanor cases.

If DNA evidence is involved in a felony sexual abuse case, criminal charges must be filed within a year after the perpetrator could have been reasonably identified.

Other Compensation for Sex Abuse Victims

Indiana’s Violent Crime Victim Compensation Fund will pay for a sex abuse victim’s forensic exam (which is performed to document evidence of the abuse). The Fund may also pay up to $15,000 for your crime-related medical and other expenses. (You may have to reimburse the State if you receive additional compensation through a civil lawsuit.) To receive compensation (other than a forensic exam), victims must report the crime to law enforcement within 72 hours and apply for benefits within 180 days. 

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Yes. Sexual assault and abuse claims are emotionally difficult. They also involve detailed legal analysis and strict procedural rules. A personal injury lawyer can guide you through the process, educate you about your rights, and offer much-needed emotional support. You should also file criminal charges with a law enforcement agency. If you are facing sexual abuse charges and prosecution, a criminal lawyer can help you understand your rights. Time is of the essence, so talk to an attorney as soon as possible.