Cohen & Malad, LLP Areas of Focus


Millions of U.S. adults and children are survivors of sexual abuse. Sexual abuse survivors who have gained courage from family, community, and the #MeToo movement have come forward in large numbers to share their stories on their path to healing. These stories help shine light and release stigma and shame that many sexual abuse survivors battle. Another step on the path to healing is getting sexual abuse survivors justice and compensation through the civil justice system to not only hold their perpetrators accountable but to also provide resources needed to effectively deal with the severe trauma of the sexual abuse they experienced—that’s where our attorneys come in.

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As more people share their stories, we learn that sexual abuse can happen to any person of practically any age. Our attorneys have represented dozens of families and individuals in sexual abuse lawsuits over more than twenty years. We have talked with parents seeking an advocate for their child who was sexually abused. Some of these children were between the ages of four and six years old, while others were middle school and high school students. Some were abused by teachers, coaches, neighbors, family friends, church clergy, or youth organization leaders. We have also talked with adults who were sexually abused when they were younger and have recently decided to pursue justice through the civil litigation process so they could get compensation to help them pay for therapy needed to help them on the path to healing.

One thing is certain. Regardless of how old you were when you were sexually abused, the effects of the abuse can last a lifetime. You may not even be aware that certain physical or mental health issues exist because of the trauma from the sexual abuse you endured. Many survivors benefit greatly from psychiatric help and learn ways to control counterproductive behaviors through therapy.

There are two very different types of legal responses to sexual abuse. The person responsible for the sexual abuse could be criminally prosecuted, or the victim—as well as his or her parents or guardians—could use the civil court system to hold the abuser liable for the injury, harm, and suffering which resulted from the sexual abuse. In a criminal case, should the alleged abuser be found guilty, the penalties for that verdict could include jail or prison time, fines, probation and/or mandatory counseling. In a civil lawsuit, if the alleged sexual abuser is found liable, he or she will be responsible for damages to the victim—usually in the form of money.


Sometimes, the victim of child sexual abuse never tells anyone until he or she is grown—or not at all. Those who sexually abuse children may frighten them into not telling anyone by telling them something bad will happen to their parents, their siblings, or a favorite pet if they tell. Other times, the child does tell, but the abuser either has his or her charges dropped or is found not guilty, usually due to a lack of solid evidence. The results of a criminal trial will have a significant bearing on a civil trial—the accused sexual abuser is more likely to be held civilly liable if he or she has already been found criminally liable.

The burden of proof is significantly less in a civil trial than in a criminal trial. In a criminal trial, the burden of proof is on the state to show that the person is guilty of sexual abuse beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil trial, it must only be shown that the person is guilty of sexual abuse by showing it is more likely than not that the sexual abuse occurred.

Statute of Limitations in Sexual Abuse Cases

Every civil lawsuit is bound by statutes of limitations—that is, a specific period of time during which the lawsuit must be brought. Each state has its own statutes of limitations, and there are different statutes of limitations depending on the type of case. The state of Indiana imposes a longer statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse cases than many other states. When a child is a victim of sexual abuse, he or she must file a civil case within seven years of the eighteenth birthday, within seven years from the time the abuse could reasonably have been discovered, or four years from the end of a dependency on the sexual abuser.

Others Can Be Held Civilly Liable in a Sexual Abuse Case

Not only can the actual person responsible for the sexual abuse be held criminally and/or civilly liable, but there are others who may also be found civilly liable, particularly if they ignored their duty to report suspected abuse. This could include parents, a school district and its employees, an employer, the provider of daycare services, a religious organization or church or an institutional facility and/or its employees.

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If you or your loved one has been the victim of sexual abuse, we understand the emotional toll you have weathered. Because sexual abuse does have specific windows of time for pursuing claims, it is important that you contact an experienced sexual abuse lawyer at Cohen & Malad, LLP, as quickly as possible. You will receive a totally confidential, no-obligation consultation from a Cohen & Malad, LLP attorney who will go above and beyond to ensure your rights are protected. Contact Cohen & Malad, LLP today to discuss your case.