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Civil Lawsuits for Sex Abuse, Assault & Molestation


Sex Abuse, Assault & Molestation Law Firm

“Top Rated Personal Injury Lawyer in Philadelphia” by Super Lawyers

Is it Too Late to File Your Lawsuit?

One of the first questions that victims of sexual abuse have is whether or not they can still bring criminal charges or have a civil case even though their abuse happened many years ago or when they were a child. It is critical to find out if your case is time-barred. You must speak to a qualified lawyer who has extensive experience handling civil lawsuits for sexual abuse and assault.

Statute of Limitations Laws Vary from State to State

Statute of limitations laws vary from state to state. There are two types of statute of limitations laws which play a role in a sex abuse or assault case: the criminal statute of limitations and the civil statute of limitations.

In criminal cases in Pennsylvania, a victim of sexual abuse has until the age of 50 to bring criminal charges against the perpetrator if the sexual abuse occurred while they were a minor. In civil cases it’s different.

The statute of limitations in Pennsylvania in civil cases allows victims to bring a claim until the age of 30 against the criminal perpetrator or any entity that was responsible for allowing the abuse to occur, so long as the abuse occurred while they were a minor. However, a detailed analysis is required by an attorney regarding the timeline of abuse and the facts of your case to determine whether or not the statute of limitations may bar the claim or whether you have a potential claim for the sexual abuse that’s occurred.

Laws Change Often – Time-Barred Cases May Be Filed

Statute of limitations laws change often. Some states have begun passing special laws designed to allow survivors of abuse, whose cases were previously time-barred, to bring civil lawsuits. These laws are referred to as “civil windows,” and have been passed in states such as Delaware and California. Pennsylvania and New Jersey legislatures have recently considered passing such laws. In the event such laws are passed in your state and your case was time-barred, you will only have a short window of time within which to file a lawsuit.

Our firm represented a man who filed a civil lawsuit against a state court judge in Delaware. Due to passage of a civil window law for child molestation cases, our client’s case, which had previously been time-barred, was successful. The judge admitted to molesting our client. Watch a YouTube video about this monumental sex abuse case here.

Sexual Abuse or Assault Comes in Different Forms

Sex abuse/assault comes in many different forms and is often perpetrated by individuals known to the victim. While sex assault by an unknown assailant can occur, i.e., rape at gunpoint, the vast majority of sexual predators have a prior relationship with their victims. In fact, by some estimates, 90% of sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone known to the victim, including:

  • family members,
  • friends/acquaintances,
  • neighbors,
  • teachers, and
  • professionals (clergy, doctors, etc.).

Related: What it Takes to Get Justice Against a Sex Abuser or Molester

Sex Abuse/Assault Lawsuits – 3 Common Lawsuits

1. Sexual abuse by a teacher or other educator

Another relatively common form of sexual abuse occurs in a school setting, which includes not only primary education (elementary, middle and high school), but also secondary education (college, vocational school) and summer camps.

Educators such as teachers, coaches, principals, etc., often target both young children and older children alike. However, sex abuse of older children, such as pre-teens and teens, is more common than sex abuse of elementary school children.

In addition, it is important to note that adults can be victims of sexual abuse and assault by a teacher or educator. For instance, a college student may be coerced into sexual conduct with a professor who threatens to fail the student unless the student engages in sexual conduct with the professor.

2. Sexual abuse by a professional (priest, doctor, etc.)

Although not as common as sexual abuse by a relative or in a school setting, sexual abuse and assault by professionals can and does occur. As indicated in national news over the past decade, the problem of sex abuse in the Catholic Church has reached what seems like epidemic proportions. In fact, over the last few years, countless Philadelphia area priests have been laicized due to allegations of sexual abuse.

Sexual abuse can also be perpetrated by doctors and mental health professionals. No profession is safe.

3. Sexual abuse by a relative

Hands down, the most common type of sexual abuse involves a perpetrator who has a close relationship with the victim. The abuse can be isolated (single event) or prolonged (multiple events over the course of months or even years). Common perpetrators include:

  • parents,
  • grand-parents,
  • step-parents,
  • extended relatives (uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.), and
  • siblings.

In many instances of sex abuse perpetrated by a relative, victims often feel trapped because the abuse literally occurs at home, sometimes in their own bedrooms. In addition, victims are afraid to speak up because they are worry about breaking up their families or not being believed.

In cases when sexual abuse begins at an early age, such as childhood, many victims will forget about the abuse until well into adulthood and even beyond. It is not uncommon for victims in their 50s and 60s to finally be able to come to terms with childhood sexual abuse.

Civil Lawsuits for Sex Abuse or Assault in Pennsylvania & New Jersey- Get a Free Consultation

Our law firm was co-founded by a former sex crimes prosecutor who now represents sex crimes victims in civil cases. Our lawyers have dealt with both the statute of limitations criminally and civilly.

If you or a loved one was the victim of a sex crime, please contact our office to learn about your criminal and civil legal rights. Firm founder, Brian Kent is a former sex crimes unit prosecutor and is a “Top Rated Personal Injury Lawyer in Philadelphia.” Call for a free consultation. 800.220.7600

Page last updated: April 4, 2017