Experienced Indiana Attorneys Fighting For Your Rights
Throughout their decades of service, Wagner Reese's experienced litigators have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for clients.
These are lawyers you can trust, attorneys who believe in you and have only one goal - protecting your best interests. As a sexual abuse or assault survivor, you have numerous choices in representation. We are honored that you have considered our attorneys.
Our Indiana Sexual Abuse & Assault Litigation Team
Leading our Indiana litigation team are Wagner Reese, experienced litigators with a proven track record of holding negligent parties accountable in sexual abuse and sexual assault cases. Wagner Reese's sexual abuse and assault litigation team has successfully represented numerous clients in complex cases. Led by partner Jeff Gibson, the team is experienced in guiding survivors through the civil litigation process, providing survivors with resources and support to help with healing, and assisting survivors with parallel criminal proceedings.
You Are Not Alone
We believe you, and we believe your story deserves to be told. All too often, sexual assault survivors are shamed into silence, or fear stepping forward out of a misplaced sense of shame. The same can be said for childhood sexual abuse survivors, who often spend silent decades wrestling with the brutal fact of their mistreatment. You did nothing wrong. You did not deserve this in any way. No one deserves to be abused, or assaulted, or forced to do things against their will. You deserve to be treated as a human, with dignity and beauty and love.
Indiana Law Protects, Empowers Survivors
Recovery is possible. Indiana's strong history of common law allows abuse and assault survivors to pursue financial compensation against the people responsible for the sexual misconduct. You may be able to sue the perpetrator of abuse or assault, as well as any institutions, individuals or organizations who facilitated the abuse. Sexual abuse and sexual assault can come from anywhere, at any time. It could be a trusted friend, a respected doctor or a family member. It could be a priest, a police officer or a nursing home employee. Most of the time, it comes from the least expected place - it's someone we know, rather than a stranger.
Criminal Justice System Lacks Support For Survivors
In any case, sexual abuse and sexual assault are terrible crimes that deserve a swift response. The criminal justice system plays its part, pursuing and prosecuting the direct perpetrators of crime and incarcerating convicted offenders. But support for survivors is often lacking. The criminal justice system wasn't designed to provide assistance to crime victims; it was designed to punish offenders. That means resources for survivors are few and far between.
The civil justice system provides another option for justice. Looking for strong support, experienced guidance and unmatched resources? You'll find it by contacting a dedicated civil sex abuse and assault attorney. Our experienced attorneys have only one goal - protecting your best interests as you pursue justice. We have no other mission.
Why Survivors Turn To The Civil Justice System
The criminal justice system holds criminal offenders accountable to society as a whole, punishing them for violating societal codes of behavior. This is important work, but it doesn't put survivors at the heart of the issue. In the civil justice system, the tables are reversed. As a survivor, you take the spotlight, by seeking to hold offenders and their enabling institutions accountable to you. You become the only person that matters, the heart of your lawsuit.
Legal Theories: Filing Suit Against An Offender
Indiana has a strong criminal code that holds criminal offenders accountable for their crimes, but it also provides survivors with strong civil tools to prosecute their own cases. Civil lawsuits can be filed against the direct perpetrators of sex crimes under three legal theories that are well-recognized by Indiana's civil courts:
- assault - an action, or the threat of action, that puts another person in fear of imminent bodily harm (raising your first to strike someone)
- battery - the consummation of assault; the physical touch that makes good on the fear of imminent bodily harm (actually punching someone)
- intentional infliction of emotional distress - when "extreme and outrageous" conduct intentionally or recklessly causes severe emotional distress
In most cases of sexual assault and abuse, these three legal theories come together as individual claims against a defendant. Assault and battery are generally taken as a pair; there is first the threat of physical harm, then the threat is realized with physical contact, as in a case of rape. Intentional infliction of emotional distress comes along almost as a matter of course; rape, assault and childhood sexual abuse are necessarily "extreme and outrageous," and they obviously cause severe emotional distress.
Third-Party Sexual Abuse & Assault Lawsuits
Alongside individual offenders, Indiana's strong tradition of civil law also allows survivors and their loved ones to file suit against institutions or organizations that facilitate sexual abuse, either by protecting offenders or failing to prevent sexual abuse and assault.
Example: The Catholic Church
At the root of many abuse and assault cases is an institution or organization that looked the other way, allowing abuse to occur under its watch without taking a stand to stop it. Think of the Catholic Church, an institution that, for decades and decades, has consistently protected child molesters from secular authorities by concealing abuse cases and deceiving the public.
Needless to say, this behavior is unacceptable. No one should work to protect abusers from justice, but the Catholic Church has and continues to do so. Behind every case of priest sexual abuse stands the Catholic Church, and its consistent, decades-old policy of protecting child molesters.
Thankfully, a new surge of public pressure has forced the Catholic Church to account for past misconduct. Across the nation, hundreds of clergy sexual abuse survivors are standing up and demanding justice.
Criminal prosecutors are playing their part, establishing new task forces to investigate cases of clergy sexual abuse and prosecute offending priests whenever possible. But much of this work is being done through the civil justice system, where survivors and their loved ones have the power to file their own private lawsuits against the Church.
That's the power of the civil justice system. It allows survivors to take control of the legal process. Today, hundreds of clergy sexual abuse survivors are standing up for justice and filing suit against the Catholic Church, demanding accountability and financial compensation. In court documents, these brave survivors accuse the Church of committing negligence, a careless disregard for the safety and well-being of others, by protecting child molesters, ignoring sexual abuse allegations and attempting to silence victims.
What Is Negligence?
The legal concept of negligence is at the root of most sexual abuse and assault lawsuits, especially when these cases are being filed against a third-party, separate from the crime's direct perpetrator. At bottom, negligence is the careless or reckless disregard for the safety and health of another person, but it first requires a duty.
Take a child care center as one example. Child care centers, both ethically and legally, owe children and parents a duty to care adequately for the children under their charge. One aspect of this duty is to do everything in their power to prevent or reduce the likelihood of child sexual abuse. Child care centers can fulfill this duty in any number of ways - by installing security cameras to supervise child care areas, completing adequate background checks on prospective employees or instituting policies that ensure no employee has access to children without a supervisor present. All of these methods have one goal in mind - to reduce the likelihood that sexual abuse will occur.
How Defendants Facilitate Abuse Through Negligence
So what happens when sexual abuse occurs at the child care center? Beyond pushing for the prosecution of the abuse's direct perpetrator, parents also have the option to contact an experienced sexual abuse attorney for further investigation.
In all likelihood, the child care center's negligence played a role in allowing the abuse to occur. Perhaps the facility failed to perform an adequate background check on the perpetrator, missing out on a prior conviction for sexual assault. Or maybe the center failed to adequately monitor security camera footage, missing evidence of the sexual abuse taking place in a common child care area. Or the perpetrator was left alone with children, in contravention of the center's own policies.
These would be examples of negligence, because the child care center failed to uphold its duty to adequately care for the children under its charge.
Negligence: The Root Of Third-Party Sexual Abuse & Assault Lawsuits
When negligence lies at the root of sexual assault or sexual abuse, survivors and families have the right to pursue financial damages from the negligent organization or institution. In most cases, a civil lawsuit can be filed against the entity, in which survivors and parents outline their allegations and demand compensation.
Numerous organizations and institutions owe participants a duty to prevent sexual abuse and sexual assault. Schools and universities owe their students a duty to reduce the risk of sex crimes by instituting strong policies against assault and abuse. Massage spas owe their clients a duty to prevent assault, usually by screening massage therapists before hiring and responding adequately to abuse allegations once they have been leveled.
Hotels and motels owe their residents and visitors a duty to provide adequate protection against criminals. Doctors owe their patients a duty to act professionally at all times. The list goes on and on. All of these individuals, institutions and organizations owe their participants a basic duty to do everything in their power to prevent assault and abuse, which also means that they can be negligent in fulfilling their duties.
Pursuing Justice After Sexual Assault Or Abuse
If you or a loved one were sexually assaulted or abused, you have powerful legal options.
You may be eligible to file a civil lawsuit to hold the responsible parties accountable in a court of law. This is your right as a resident of Indiana. In bringing responsible parties to justice, the criminal justice system plays an active and essential role, pursuing, prosecuting and incarcerating the direct perpetrators of sex crimes. Child molesters, sexual abusers and assaulters can be held accountable, fined and put in prison for their actions.
Institutional Responsibility For Sex Crimes
But in many cases, there is another story to tell, a story of the institutions, businesses and cultures that made sexual abuse possible in the first place.
For every massage therapist who sexually assaults a client, there is a massage spa that failed to protect its customers. For every priest who sexually abuses a child, there is a Catholic Diocese who may have failed to act to prevent the abuse. For every doctor who inappropriately touches a patient, there is a hospital that failed to act.
Why Civil Justice Matters
These are also terrible injustices, but the criminal justice system isn't equipped to prosecute these additional defendants, because these are stories of negligence, a careless disregard for the safety and well-being of others, not criminal law.
The civil justice system is designed to tell these nuanced stories. In a civil lawsuit, you and your family have the power to hold these additional third-party defendants accountable for their failures and misconduct. You can right the wrong that harmed you and your family.
Holding Institutions Accountable For Their Failures
In a civil lawsuit, the Catholic Church can be held accountable for its decades-long policy of protecting child molesters. In a civil lawsuit, hospitals can be held accountable for allowing dangerous predators to practice medicine. Child care centers can be held accountable for failing to perform adequate background checks, and nursing homes can be held liable for allowing predators unfettered access to elderly patients. These are the stories our attorneys live to tell - your story, the story of what happened to you or your loved one. Our only goal is to bring the truth to light. We fight to represent clients throughout Indiana, bringing our substantial experience and resources to bear in cases of childhood sexual abuse and sexual assault. Your best interests are at the heart of everything we do.
Filing A Sexual Assault Lawsuit In Indiana
Sexual assault and other sex crimes can ruin lives. If you or a loved one were sexually assaulted, we understand the powerful and painful emotions that such a crime can bring up. Shame, embarrassment, fear, anger, sadness - these are natural reactions to a terrible trauma. But you don't need to live in the shadows. What happened to you does not define you. You are more than the assault that has hurt you. You are strong. You are beautiful. You are more.
This Was Not Your Fault.
Whatever your situation, know that this was not your fault. You did nothing wrong. You are a survivor, and you have powerful legal rights. You can fight back and hold the responsible parties accountable. You can find your voice again. It's possible thanks to Indiana's strong tradition of civil law, a tradition that allows sexual assault survivors to pursue compensation.
The Civil Justice System Offers Solutions
Everyone agrees that sexual offenders should be punished, often harshly, for their crimes, but today's criminal justice system is still lacking when it comes to support for survivors. After running through the rigors of a criminal prosecution, many sexual assault survivors feel as though they were used, rather than assisted, as pieces of evidence in the criminal case.
There is another option. While we urge you to participate fully in the criminal justice process, and take advantage of all of your rights as a survivor of crime, you should know that you have other options available to you, including a private civil lawsuit.
The criminal justice system pays little heed to the needs of survivors. Financial compensation and emotional counseling are often lacking. But the civil justice system is also open to you. You may be able to file a private civil lawsuit and pursue justice on your own terms.
How To File A Claim For Compensation
With an experienced attorney, you can fight back against the responsible parties and hold them accountable, while also pursuing financial damages, including compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages and also damages for your pain and suffering.
This is your right as a resident of Indiana. Your lawsuit is yours and yours alone. There are no prosecutors to stand in the way of justice - just you, your story and the jury.
This is your choice and your decision. We can't make it for you, but we do know that filing a lawsuit, and pursuing justice and accountability, can be a powerful step on the road to recovery. You can take control over a situation that probably feels like it's completely out of control. Our legal team has only one goal - to protect your best interests.
Surge Of Sexual Assault Lawsuits Brings Hope, Change
You are not alone. In the wake of the #MeToo movement and general changes in our societal outlook on sexual assault, thousands of sexual assault survivors across the nation are standing up and raising their voices for change.
Over the past five years, our attorneys have watched with astonishment as sexual assault and sexual abuse survivors from every corner of the country have begun to share their stories of pain and hope with the world. Many of these survivors have chosen to file private civil lawsuits to hold their abusers accountable.
Taking Aim At The Root Of The Problem
One thing these survivors share in common is that they all know that holding the direct perpetrators of sexual assault accountable isn't enough. Sexual assault isn't just a crime committed by one person against another. It's part of a cultural problem, a problem of institutions and businesses and organizations that enable sexual assaults to occur.
That's why so many sexual assault lawsuits name additional third-party defendants in addition to the crime's direct perpetrator - because for every massage therapist who assaults a client, there's a massage spa owner who failed to adequately conduct a background check. For every doctor who assaults a patient, there's a medical practice that looked the other way. For every nursing home employee who abuses a resident, there's a facility manager who allowed the predator to gain unfettered access to his victim.
Holding Responsible Third-Parties Accountable
These are deep and lasting failures. In the legal field, we call them examples of negligence, a careless disregard for the safety and wellbeing of others. But in most cases, these aren't punishable crimes, and the institutions and businesses who commit them won't be criminally prosecuted. Criminal prosecution is almost always reserved for the direct perpetrator.
That's why the civil justice system is so powerful. In civil courts across the nation, sexual assault survivors can pursue justice on their own terms against the third-party defendants who allowed their assault to occur. Finally, you can stand up against the systems and power structures that allow sexual assault to happen. That's your right in Indiana.
Colleges and universities can be sued for failing to respond adequately to dangerous sexual predators. Hospitals and nursing homes can be sued for allowing predators to abuse patients. Businesses can be held liable for allowing harassment and sexual assault to occur in the workplace. Hotels and motels can be held accountable for failing to adequately protect guests and residents. Police departments can be sued for failing to discipline their officers.
That's just a small sample of the possible defendants in a sexual assault lawsuit, but the point should now be clear. Institutions, businesses and individuals who enable sexual assault through their inaction and wrongful conduct can be held accountable. Needless to say, sexual assault lawsuits can also be filed against the direct perpetrators of the crime - the doctors who abuse their patients, the co-workers who commit assault and the massage therapists who inappropriately touch their clients.
Indiana's strong history of civil law allows survivors to file suit against direct perpetrators under three inter-linked legal theories, all of which are known as intentional torts:
- Assault - While most people think of "assault" as a violent attack, the term actually has a very specific meaning in the civil law. In civil cases, "assault" refers to the attempt or threat of violence, not the violence itself. Assault can still hold, even if there is no actual physical contact. It's a gesture or action or statement that makes the victim fear the imminent threat of physical harm.
- Battery - In civil law, "battery" refers to the actual physical contact threatened in the tort of assault. In technical terms, "battery" is the intentional touching of another person's body in an offensive or harmful manner without the other person's consent. It should be obvious that most sexual assaults fall under this category.
- Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress - Occasionally referred to as the tort of outrage, the intentional infliction of emotional distress is fairly self-explanatory. It occurs when a defendant acts intentionally or recklessly to inflict emotional distress by behaving in an extreme and outrageous manner, as when someone makes a threat of future harm to someone else.
These three intentional torts form the basis of most sexual assault lawsuits that pursue compensation from the crime's direct perpetrator. In most cases, you will see them occur together as three separate claims against the offender.
How Negligence Works In Practice
Lawsuits filed against third-party defendants (the business that employed the direct perpetrator, the hospital where they worked), on the other hand, are generally filed under the legal theory of negligence. In simple terms, negligence is the failure to uphold a duty.
The Duty To Care
A prior duty must exist for a claim of negligence to hold, but if you think about it, most businesses and institutions have a legal and ethical duty to reduce the risk of sexual assault as much as reasonably possible. Massage spas, medical offices, hospitals, colleges and universities, workplaces, hotels and motels, train lines, vacation resorts, psychiatric facilities, sports clubs, schools - all bound by the duty to prevent sexual assault.
Example: Nursing Home Sexual Assault
Nursing homes, for example, have a simple duty to protect residents from all manner of harms, including sexual abuse and exploitation. This duty can be fulfilled in a variety of ways, though there are some things that every reasonable nursing home does. Nursing homes are generally obligated to perform adequate background checks on prospective employees to filter out applicants with histories of sex crime convictions. Many nursing homes also institute policies under which no employee can be alone with a resident in a private area.
Negligence comes into play when the facility fails to uphold its duty to protect residents, allowing a sexual assault to occur through inaction or a wrongful act. Perhaps the nursing home failed to perform a background check, or failed to adequately review security camera footage. Maybe an employee with a history of inappropriate behavior was left alone in a resident's room. The examples are myriad, but the basic principle is the same - negligence is a failure to uphold the duty to protect. Negligence is at the root of most sexual assault lawsuits. When a business, employer or organization acts negligently, allowing a sexual assault to take place, the assault victim gains the right to pursue compensation by filing a private civil lawsuit.
Child Sexual Abuse Lawsuits
Was your child sexually abused by a dangerous predator in Indiana? Were you sexually abused as a child, and still struggling to come to terms with the abuse you suffered? Our dedicated attorneys understand the powerful and painful emotions you must be experiencing now. Shock, rage, depression, fear, embarrassment, shame - however you feel, these are natural reactions to a terrible trauma.
Your Right To File A Civil Lawsuit
You and your family may have powerful legal options, including the right to file a civil lawsuit, demanding justice and financial compensation from the responsible parties.
This was not your fault. You did nothing wrong, and you can fight back. You may feel powerless, but as a sexual abuse survivor in Indiana, or the loved one of a sexual abuse survivor, you have the power to turn the tables on the offender and those who enabled the sexual abuse. You can hold them all accountable by filing a private lawsuit.
The Role Of Third-Party Defendants In Sexual Abuse Cases
The sexual molestation of children is a horrific crime, one that no one in our society would dare to condone. But every day, businesses and institutions in our country enable the continued sexual abuse of children through their negligence. Unfortunately, the criminal justice system is not equipped to hold these organizations and establishments accountable.
The criminal justice system was designed to punish and incarcerate the direct perpetrators of sexual abuse - the priests who molest parishioners, the doctors who prey on their young patients and the sports coaches who abuse young athletes. But what about the Church, and the medical office and the school itself, all of which failed to prevent the sexual abuse from occurring in the first place? Who holds these additional third parties accountable?
How The Civil Justice System Can Help
You do. This is the power of the civil justice system. When a child is abused, the direct perpetrator can be taken into custody, prosecuted and punished for his crimes, but the third parties, the businesses and institutions who enabled the crime, will not be prosecuted for their involvement. Their only punishment comes when a brave family stands up for justice and pursues a private civil lawsuit, demanding justice, accountability and compensation.
You have a voice, a powerful voice. Predators seek positions of power, ones that allow them ready access to young children. Child molesters seek employment in fields that allow them to gain authority over children - the priesthood, the doctor's office, the Boy Scouts, teaching positions at elementary, middle and high schools.
It's not a coincidence that so many child sexual abuse cases come from these fields; dangerous sexual predators actively seek out roles that allow them to gain unfettered access to young children. But who puts these predators in power? And who keeps them in power, even after sexual abuse allegations have been leveled against them?
Filing Suit Against Negligent Third Parties
All too often, these institutions, organizations and businesses shield sexual predators from justice. Hoping to protect their own reputations, they look the other way, rather than facing up to the reality of sexual abuse. In some cases, as with the Catholic Church, these institutions actively seek to silence and undermine sexual abuse survivors, digging through their personal lives and attacking their reputations. No one should be allowed to act this way.
The Role Of Negligence In Child Sexual Abuse
It can be small - a nurse who accidentally walks in on a pediatrician touching his young patient, but doesn't tell anyone else. It can be large - an institution like the Catholic Church concealing for decades the rampant sexual abuse occurring under its watch, or a single doctor from Michigan molesting hundreds of young gymnasts under the guise of medical care.
Negligence and child sexual abuse go hand in hand.
Examples Of Negligence
In all of these cases, there were moments when someone, somewhere could have done more to prevent the abuse. There are moments when a manager, or a nurse, or a university president learned more than they would like to know, but failed to act on that knowledge. There were moments when the leader of a Catholic Diocese chose to transfer an offending priest to another parish, rather than alerting the authorities to a sexual abuse allegation, and moments when the headmaster of a private boarding school learned of a dangerous hazing ritual, but did nothing to stop students from practicing it.
These are examples of negligence, a careless disregard for the safety and wellbeing of others. And in these cases, children are the ones losing out. While it is true that none of these institutions, establishments and organizations would publicly affirm the molestation of children, they all make choices that enable sexual abuse, acting or failing to act in a way that violates their sworn ethical and legal obligation to protect children.
Who Can Be Held Accountable?
You can hold them accountable. Indiana's strong tradition of civil law empowers child sexual abuse survivors and their families to pursue justice in the wake of a horrific trauma. We believe you, and we believe your story should be told.
Negligence stands at the root of most personal injury lawsuits. Childhood sexual abuse claims are no different, especially when they include allegations against a third-party defendant, like the Catholic Church, or a day care center or school. Anyone who facilitated the abuse of a child, either through actions to conceal abuse or failures to act, can be held accountable for their negligence in a court of law.
Filing Suit Against Direct Perpetrators
Needless to say, civil lawsuits can also be filed against the direct perpetrators of child sexual abuse. Individual priests, pediatricians, school teachers, summer camp counselors and molesters can be held accountable in a civil court of law.
These claims involve different legal theories, not negligence but the intentional civil torts (wrongs) of assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The principles behind these so-called intentional torts are well-known. It is an actionable civil offense to make another person fear imminent harm, to touch them in an offensive or harmful manner without consent and to take actions that inflict severe emotional distress.
It should be obvious that childhood sexual abuse in any form fulfills the conditions for assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. These are the legal theories on which a claim for compensation against a direct perpetrator would be based.
But the civil court system allows you to tell a much larger story, one about the institutions, businesses and establishments who facilitate sexual abuse through negligence. These third-party defendants can also be held accountable in a civil lawsuit.
The Difference Between Civil & Criminal Lawsuits
Civil lawsuits are distinct from the legal proceedings held in the criminal justice system. In prosecuting an offender, criminal prosecutors seek justice for society as a whole, with little thought of providing direct support to the crime's victim.
There is some reason for hope, however. Criminal divisions have now begun to provide far more services for crime victims in general, and more and more judges are seeing financial restitution (a monetary sum paid by the offender to the victim as a part of criminal sentencing) as a viable option in their sentencing decisions. But there is still a fundamental problem - crime victims are not at the center of criminal prosecution, society as a whole is.
As we've already said, the civil justice system provides another option. Nor are the two avenues to justice mutually-exclusive. Criminal and civil proceedings can be initiated over the same incident of childhood sexual abuse. In fact, in many cases, evidence unearthed in a criminal investigation can again be used during civil proceedings.
But more importantly, civil litigation puts survivors and their best interests at the heart of litigation. No longer is the defendant being held accountable to society; he or she is being held accountable to the individual harmed, to you and your loved ones.
Your Lawsuit, Your Decisions
The matter of control is also important. In a criminal proceeding, sexual abuse survivors have almost no control over the prosecution's direction. While victim impact statements have given survivors a voice inside the criminal court, the preferences and goals of the victim are hardly ever taken into account. It's the prosecutor's case, not your own. The civil justice system flips this equation on its head. Your civil lawsuit is yours and yours alone. You make the essential decisions that affect your case. You decide to go to trial or settle. And your attorney's only goal is to protect your best interests.
Indiana Laws On Sexual Assault & Child Sexual Abuse
Indiana's strong criminal laws hold sex crimes offenders accountable, while the state's civil laws empower survivors to fight back on their own terms.
Sexual assault, rape, child molestation - these are crimes in every state, but their technical definitions, along with their punishments, vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
Indiana Sex Crimes - Definitions & Penalties
In Indiana, criminal prosecutors have 12 separate criminal offenses at their disposal to prosecute sex crimes, from rape and sexual battery to incest and sexual misconduct with a minor. In addition to these criminal laws, there are also elements of Indiana's civil code that can come to the assistance of sexual assault and abuse survivors. Fundamental legal theories such as negligence and medical malpractice can be used in court to hold responsible parties accountable, pursue justice and secure financial compensation.
In this in-depth guide, our experienced sexual assault and abuse attorneys will cover the relevant Indiana laws (both criminal and civil) that survivors need to know.
Sexual Assault - Sex Crimes Involving Adult Victims
Crimes in Indiana are divided into different classes, depending on the severity of the offense and the circumstances surrounding the misconduct. Each class of crime entails its own set of prescribed penalties.
In Indiana, the crime of rape is defined as knowingly or intentionally having sexual intercourse with another person or knowingly or intentionally causing another person to perform or submit to other sexual conduct when:
- the other person is compelled by force or imminent threat of force
- the other person is unaware that the sexual intercourse or other sexual contact is occurring; or
- the other person is so mentally disabled or deficient that consent to sexual intercourse or other sexual contact cannot be given
As a Level 3 Felony, rape comes along with a minimum prison term of 3 years. But depending on the circumstances, rape in Indiana can be further divided into two sub-categories:
- Class A Felony
- if the victim is incapacitated and does not provide consent
- if the sex crime results in serious bodily injury
- if the crime is committed with the use of a deadly weapon
- if the crime is committed by using or threatening deadly force
- Class B Felony
- if the victim is mentally disabled or deficient
- if the victim is unaware that intercourse is occurring
- if the threat of force is used
As a Class A Felony, the crime of rape can be punished through a 30 year prison sentence, along with a fine of up to $10,000. As a Class B Felony, rape is generally punished through a 10 year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine.
The crime of sexual battery involves non-consensual touching with the intent to arouse or satisfy sexual desires. Indiana's criminal code defines the offense as when a defendant touches another person with the intent to around or satisfy their own sexual desires, or the sexual desires of another person, when the victim is:
- compelled to submit to the touching by force or the imminent threat of force; or
- so mentally disabled or deficient that consent to the touching cannot be given; or
- when the defendant touches another person's genitals, pubic area, buttocks or female breasts when that person is unaware that the touching is occurring
Sexual battery is considered a Level 6 felony in Indiana, which comes with a minimum prison term of 1/2 year. The offense is upgraded to a Level 4 felony, which has a minimum term of imprisonment of 2 years, when the defendant:
- uses or threatens the use of deadly force
- is armed with a deadly weapon; or
- the commission of the offense is facilitated by furnishing the victim, without the victim's knowledge, with a drug or controlled substance, or knowing that the victim was furnished with a drug or controlled substance without the victim's knowledge
Sexual battery can also become a Class C Felony, with a minimum prison term of 4 years and fine of up to $10,000.
Criminal Deviate Conduct
The term "deviate sexual intercourse" refers to non-intercourse sex acts, forms of sexual gratification involving the sex organs of one person and the mouth or anus of another person, as well as crimes in which the anus or vagina of the victim are penetrated by a foreign object.
Criminal deviate conduct is considered a Class A Felony in Indiana, punishable by a maximum of 30 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines, when:
- the perpetrator knowingly or intentionally causes the victim to perform or submit to deviate sexual conduct when the commission of the offense is facilitated knowing that the victim was furnished with a drug or controlled substance without the victim's knowledge
- the criminal deviate conduct results in serious bodily injury to the victim
- the offense is committed by threatening the use of deadly force
- the offense is committed by the use of deadly force
The crime becomes a Class B Felony when:
- the perpetrator knowingly or intentionally causes the victim to perform or submit to deviate sexual conduct when the victim is so mentally disabled or deficient that consent to the conduct cannot be given
- the victim is unaware that the conduct is occurring
- when the victim is compelled by imminent threat of force
- when the victim is compelled by force
Incest is considered a Level 5 felony in Indiana when a person 18 years or older engages in sexual intercourse or other sexual conduct with another person, when the defendant knows that the victim is related to the defendant biologically as a parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, aunt, uncle, niece or nephew.
The offense becomes a Level 4 felony when the victim is less than 16 years of age. In these cases, the charge can be prosecuted even if the victim consents to sexual conduct with the defendant.
Child Sex Abuse Laws
According to Indiana's criminal code, child molestation occurs when a person knowingly or intentionally performs or submits to sexual intercourse or other sexual conduct with a child under the age of 14. The age of 14 is the cutoff for charges of child molestation; a separate statute, known as "sexual misconduct with a minor," covers cases involving victims who are between the ages of 14 and 16, which is Indiana's age of consent.
In general, the offense of child molesting is considered a Level 3 felony, punishable through a maximum of 10 years in prison and $10,000 in fines, but can be upgraded to a Level 1 felony when:
- the defendant is at least 21 years of age
- the offense is committed by using or threatening the use of deadly force or while armed with a deadly weapon
- the crime results in serious bodily injury
- the commission of the crime is facilitated by furnishing the victim, without the victim's knowledge, with a drug or a controlled substance
- the crime results in the transmission of a dangerous sexually-transmitted disease and the defendant knew that he or she was infected with the disease
In these cases, child molestation is punishable by a maximum of 30 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
Child molestation is a Level 4 felony when the defendant performs or submits to any fondling or touching with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires of either person with a child under the age of 14. As a baseline, this crime is punishable by a maximum of 4 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. This crime of fondling or touching becomes a Level 2 felony when:
- the crime is committed by using or threatening the use of deadly force
- the crime is committed while armed with a deadly weapon; or
- the commission of the crime is facilitated by furnishing the victim, without the victim's knowledge, with a drug or controlled substance
Defendants in child molestation cases have at least one affirmative argument in their defense, as recognized by Indiana's criminal code. The defendant is allowed to argue that they believed that the victim was at least 16 years of age (Indiana's age of consent) at the time of the conduct. This defense falls apart, however, if:
- the offense was committed by using or threatening the use of deadly force or while armed with a deadly weapon
- the offense results in serious bodily injury; or
- the commission of the offense was facilitated by furnishing the victim, without the victim's knowledge, with a drug or controlled substance
Sexual Misconduct With A Minor
Sexual misconduct with a minor covers cases in which a defendant who is at least 18 years old performs or submits to sexual intercourse or other sexual conduct with a child between the ages of 14 and 16. In general, the crime is considered a Level 5 felony, but can be upgraded to a Level 4 felony when:
- the defendant is at least 21 years of age
The crime can be further upgraded to a Level 1 felony, and punished through up to 30 years in prison and $10,000 in fines, if:
- the offense was committed by using or threatening the use of deadly force
- it was committed while armed with a deadly weapon
- the crime results in serious bodily injury; or
- the offense was facilitated by furnishing the victim, without the victim's knowledge, with a drug or controlled substance
A lesser offense, considered a Level 6 felony, occurs when a person of at least 18 years of age performs or submits to any fondling or touching with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires of either person with a child between the ages of 14 and 16. This offense is in turn upgraded to a Level 5 felony when the defendant is at least 21 years of age, and becomes a level 2 felony when it is committed by using or threatening deadly force, while armed with a deadly weapon or after the victim was furnished with a drug or controlled substance.
Indiana's criminal statutes outline several affirmative defenses to the charge of sexual misconduct with a minor. The defendant is allowed to argue that he or she reasonably believed that the child was at least 16 years of age at the time of the misconduct, unless the crime was committed through the use or threat of deadly force, with a deadly person or after the victim was unknowingly furnished a drug or controlled substance. There is also an affirmative defense if the child at issue is or was ever married.
A third defense to the crime of sexual misconduct with a minor holds when:
- the defendant is no more than four years older than the victim;
- the defendant and the victim were in a dating relationship or ongoing personal relationship (but not a familial relationship); and
- the defendant is less than 21 years of age
- the crime was not committed by the use or threat of deadly force
- the crime was not committed while armed with a deadly weapon
- the offense did not result in serious bodily injury
- the misconduct was not facilitated by furnishing the victim with a drug or controlled substance without the victim's knowledge
- the crime was not committed by a person having a position of authority or substantial influence over the victim
- the defendant has not committed another sex offense against any person
Indiana's child exploitation laws cover cases involving child pornography. Child exploitation is generally considered a Level 5 felony. The offense covers all instances in which a person manufactures or disseminates photographs, films, videotapes or digitized images of any performance or incident that includes sexual conduct by a child under 18.
The definition of child pornography includes any performance or incident that includes the uncovered genitals of a child less than 18 or the exhibition of the female breast with less than a fully opaque covering of any part of the nipple by a child under the age of 18.
Dissemination of child pornography under Indiana's criminal code applies to any situation in which the material is transferred to another person, either for free or for a consideration. In this context, dissemination also includes situations in which one person knowingly or intentionally transfers a computer or hard drive that contains sexually-explicit material involving children under the age of 18 to another person.
Child exploitation can be upgraded to a Level 4 felony in cases when the pornographic material depicts or describes a child under the age of 18 who is engaged in bestiality, is mentally disabled or deficient, participates in the sexual conduct by use of force or threat of force, or when the victim physically or verbally resists participating in the sexual conduct, receives a bodily injury while participating in the sexual act, or is under the age of 12.
It is a Level 6 felony to possess or access with the intent to view any child pornography, including pictures and drawings that lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. Possession is elevated to a Level 5 felony when the pornographic material depicts:
- a child engaged in bestiality,
- a victim who is mentally disabled or deficient,
- the victim participates in the sexual conduct by use of force or threat of force,
- the victim physically or verbally resists participating in the sexual conduct,
- the victim receives a bodily injury while participating in the sexual conduct, or
- the victim is less than 12 years old
Knowingly manufacturing or disseminating child pornography comes with a maximum prison term of 4 years, and up to $10,000 in fines. The possession of child pornography is punishable through a maximum of 1.5 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
In Indiana, child seduction occurs when adults in positions of power, authority or trust engage in sexual conduct, including intercourse, with children between the ages of 16 and 18. The statute outlines 6 categories of trusted individuals, both professionals and custodians, who can be convicted of child seduction:
- child care workers, including teachers
- custodians - anyone who resides with the child and is responsible for the child's welfare, including adoptive and foster parents
- mental health professionals
- military recruiters
- law enforcement officers
- licensed professionals involved in a professional relationship with the child
Child seduction covers many situations in which an individual in a position of trust and authority uses their power over a child to engage in sexual intercourse, other sexual conduct, or any fondling or touching with a child between the ages of 16 and 18. The law is designed to hold accountable those individuals who exploit their positions of power to abuse children.
In general, child seduction is considered a Class D felony, and comes with a maximum penalty of 1.5 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
When a person 18 years of age or older commands, authorizes, urges, incites, requests or advises a child under the age of 14, or between the ages of 14 and 16, to engage in sexual intercourse, other sexual conduct or any fondling or touching intended to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires of either person, they have committed child solicitation, as defined by Indiana's criminal code.
Solicitation can occur in person, over the phone, in writing or over a computer network. In general, child solicitation is a Level 5 felony, but it becomes a Level 4 felony if the defendant solicits a child that he or she believes to be under 14 years of age to engage in sexual intercourse or other sexual conduct, and:
- commits the offense by using a computer network and travels to meet the child; or
- has a previous unrelated conviction for child solicitation
As a Level 4 felony, child solicitation comes with a maximum prison term of 10 years and fines of up to $10,000. Lesser degrees of the crime can be punished through a maximum prison term of 1.5 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines, unless the crime was committed using a computer network, in which case the maximum prison term becomes 4 years.
Vicarious Sexual Gratification
Vicarious sexual gratification covers cases in which a defendant knowingly or intentionally directs, aids, induces or causes a child under the age of 16 to engage in sexual behavior. The crime is a Level 5 felony, punishable by a 1.5 year prison sentence, when the defendant directs, aids, induces or causes the child to touch or fondle him or herself or another child under the age of 16. It becomes a Level 4 felony if the child is under 14, and a Level 3 felony if:
- the offense is committed by using or threatening the use of deadly force, or while armed with a deadly weapon
- the offense is facilitated by furnishing the victim, without the victim's knowledge, with a drug or controlled substance
- the commission of the offense results in serious bodily injury.
A person of 18 or older who knowingly or intentionally directs, aids, induces or causes a child under the age of 16 to engage in sexual intercourse with another child under 16, engage in bestiality or engage in other sexual conduct with another person has committed vicarious sexual gratification as a Level 4 felony. The crime becomes a Level 3 felony if any child involved in the offense is under 14 years old.
Indiana Civil Laws On Sexual Assault & Abuse
Indiana has a strong tradition of civil law that empowers sexual assault survivors, child sexual abuse survivors and loving parents to file private lawsuits against the responsible parties. These lawsuits can come in addition to the criminal prosecution of an offender, and may even be initiated when the criminal justice system has failed to prosecute a defendant in the case.
Civil lawsuits can be filed against the direct perpetrators of sexual assault and child sexual abuse, under a trio of civil liability theories - assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Survivors may also be able to file suit against any businesses, organizations or institutions who facilitated the abuse or assault; these third-party civil sex crime lawsuits are generally filed under the legal theory of negligence.
The Duty To Protect Against Child Sexual Abuse & Assault
Indiana's civil law recognizes that certain individuals and organizations have a fundamental duty to protect children from child sexual abuse. Churches and other religious organizations, public, private and charter schools, daycares, foster homes, sports clubs, pediatricians and medical offices, hospitals, the Boy Scouts of Americas - all of these organizations have a basic duty to protect the children under their care and prevent child sexual abuse.
Similar duties exist in the realm of adult sexual assault. Spas and massage facilities, doctors and hospitals, nursing homes, colleges and universities, hotels and motels - these establishments and organizations have a fundamental duty to protect their participants, students, clients and patients, including a duty to provide adequate security against crime.
Violating The Duty Of Care
These duties, known as the duty of care, are essential. No one would visit a doctor if they knew that their gynecologist was preparing to assault them. No one would attend a university that they knew would fail to protect them from sexual abuse. No one would select a nursing home where employees were allowed to assault their patients.
Despite the duty to care, sexual assault and child sexual abuse occur every day in this country. Every day, a child is abused at his or her school. Every day, a doctor makes inappropriate comments to his patient, before touching her in a sexual manner. Every day, another survivor steps forward with a story of being sexually abused by a priest.
These are crimes, but they are also civil wrongs, recognized in civil courts throughout Indiana. Thanks to the doctrine of negligence, survivors and their loved ones are allowed to stand up to these institutions and businesses, pursuing justice and financial compensation on their own terms. You can raise your voice and demand change. You have real power.
Negligent Organizations Can Be Held Accountable
Negligence occurs when a business or institution fails to uphold its duty to protect. It happens when the college or university fails to discipline a dangerous sexual predator, allowing the student to commit more crimes against other unsuspecting students. It happens when the daycare center conducts an inadequate background check on an employee with a prior conviction for child sexual abuse. It happens when the nurse or hospital manager accidentally walks in on a doctor touching his patient, but decides to remain silent. Negligence can be systemic or the failure of a lone individual. It can be overt or concealed. But more often than not, it's there, under the surface, contributing to vile crimes around the country.
The Civil Statute Of Limitations
Indiana's powerful tradition of civil law may allow you and your loved ones to file suit against responsible parties, but there is a time limit. A law known as the "statute of limitations" acts like a legal clock, ticking down the amount of time you have to file suit. Attempt to file your case after the statute of limitations has run out and your case will almost certainly be thrown out of court. It's essential to contact an attorney as soon as possible to ensure that you do not lose your right to file suit forever. Do not hesitate; act now.
Indiana has two separate statutes of limitations for adult sexual assault cases and child sexual abuse cases. The state grants childhood sexual abuse survivors a longer amount of time in which to file their lawsuits, in the understanding that many children will struggle to process what happened to them and may not disclose the abuse for years.
Adult sexual assault survivors have a total of 2 years to file their lawsuit. The statute of limitations begins to run on the date of the incident. Victims of childhood sexual abuse are granted more time. If you are a survivor of sexual abuse, you have until 7 years after your 18th birthday to file suit, or 7 years from the time you knew or reasonably should have known that the abuse occurred. If you were a dependent of the person who abused you, you have until 4 years after dependency on the abuser ended.
Frequently Asked Questions
Our attorneys believe that sexual assault and abuse survivors deserve strong legal support. You have powerful rights, including the right to file a civil lawsuit against those responsible for your trauma.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who Can File A Civil Sex Crimes Lawsuit?
Most lawsuits are filed on behalf of the direct victims of sexual abuse or assault - the person who was abused or assaulted. Child sexual abuse survivors are allowed to file lawsuits on their own behalf once they become aware of the possibility of doing so. Parents are also allowed to file lawsuits on behalf of their children in cases of sexual abuse.
Who Can A Lawsuit Be Filed Against?
Civil sexual abuse and assault lawsuits can be filed against the direct perpetrators of sexual assault and abuse - the priests who abuse children, the doctors who assault patients and the massage therapists who inappropriately touch their clients.
Lawsuits can also be filed against businesses, organizations and establishments (as well as employees of those businesses, organizations and establishments) who enable sexual assault and sexual abuse to occur - Catholic dioceses that have concealed sexual abuse for decades, hospitals who fail to prevent a doctor from abusing his patients and massage businesses that facilitate sexual assault by protecting abusers and hiding crimes from the police.
Our dedicated legal team focuses its legal practice on cases of institutional sexual assault - when negligence or other misconduct on the part of a business, establishment or institution enabled sexual assault or sexual abuse to occur.
We've filed sexual assault lawsuits against nursing homes, along with sexual abuse lawsuits against daycare centers and claims for compensation against the Catholic Church. We've also sought financial damages from massage spa chains, youth sports clubs and the Boy Scouts of America. These corporate defendants should also be held accountable for their role in facilitating sexual abuse through negligence, concealment and deceit.
In principle, our attorneys file lawsuits against any person or organization that facilitates sexual abuse through negligence or misconduct. That includes, but is not limited to:
- Nursing homes
- Psychiatric facilities
- Private and public schools
- Colleges and universities
- Spas and massage businesses
- Employers (for workplace harassment and assault)
- Hotels and motels
- Vacation resorts
- Cruise ships
- Bus and train companies
- Law enforcement departments
- Youth sports clubs
- The United States Olympic Committee
Our attorneys also pursue cases against security alarm companies, in the event that the company's failure allowed a dangerous predator to break into a home.
What Kind Of Compensation Is Available In A Lawsuit?
Legal damages in an assault or sexual abuse case are generally divided into two basic categories - economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are forms of financial loss - actual expenses to which you can point, that can be substantiated through bills and receipts. Medical bills, for example, fall under the category of economic damages, as do lost wages.
Non-economic damages are harder to quantify but no less important. Compensation for the experience of physical pain, and the rigors of emotional anguish, is available for many survivors of sexual abuse and sexual assault.
Here's a basic, though incomplete, list of damages that may be available:
- Past and future medical expenses related to your injuries
- Past and future pain and suffering
- Past and future lost earnings
- Disfigurement and permanent scarring
- Loss of function / physical disability
- Mental or emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Indiana has no general damages caps for personal injury lawsuits. Some states have laws that limit the amount of available compensation, but Indiana's law is more nuanced. There is a cap on the amount of damages available to victims who file a medical malpractice lawsuit, one approved by Indiana's legislature.
The damages cap in Indiana limits the amount of non-economic damages in medical malpractice suits to a maximum of $500,000. This could affect sexual assault lawsuits filed against doctors, because these cases are most often filed as medical malpractice claims.
A second damages cap limits the amount of liability on the part of the government to $5 million in any one case.
What Is The Statute Of Limitations?
The statute of limitations is a law that limits the amount of time in which lawsuits can be filed. There are civil and criminal statutes of limitations, including individual guidelines that govern the filing of criminal charges against offenders. These are state laws, not federal ones, so the laws in Indiana will be different than those for other states.
In the area of civil law, there are two statutes of limitations to consider in the realm of sex crimes, one law for sexual assault cases involving adult victims and another for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Again, these only hold for the State of Indiana.
Adult Sexual Assault
The statute of limitations for cases of adult sexual assault is two years. The clock begins to run on the date of the sexual misconduct, though some exceptions may apply.
Child Sexual Abuse
Victims of childhood sexual abuse are granted a longer amount of time to file their claims. While there are exceptions to this rule, the statute of limitations for civil child sexual abuse lawsuits is generally seven years, but it doesn't begin on the date of the abuse. Survivors of sexual abuse are given up to seven years beginning on their 18th birthday. In short, most survivors will have until their 25th birthday to file suit.
Indiana's child sexual abuse statute of limitations is also impacted by a discovery rule, which covers cases in which a victim may not fully understand what has happened to them or repressed the memory due to significant trauma. When the discovery rule applies, survivors are given a total of seven years from the date they discovered their injuries due to sexual abuse, including the injury of severe emotional trauma.
A second exception is designed to protect the rights of children who were abused by their parents, guardians or other individuals on whom they depended. In these cases, survivors are granted a total of four years, beginning on the date the dependency ends, to file a civil suit.
Why Should I Choose Your Attorneys?
Because we have the resources and experience necessary to successfully pursue your case. This website is sponsored by a national network of experienced attorneys who focus their legal practice on cases of sexual abuse and sexual assault.
To pursue cases in Indiana, our network has partnered with the compassionate legal team at Wagner Reese, one of Indianapolis' most respected law firms. Led by Jeff Gibson, the sexual abuse and assault litigation team at Wagner Reese has helped countless survivors find their voices after a terrible trauma.
How Much Does Filing A Lawsuit Cost?
We believe that money shouldn't be a barrier between you, your family and justice. Filing a lawsuit shouldn't be expensive; nothing should between you and financial compensation. That's why our experienced sexual assault and abuse attorneys always offer their services on a contingency-fee basis. That means you owe us nothing until we secure compensation in your case. We receive compensation as a portion of the jury verdict or settlement you receive. We don't accept any payment for our services before that time.
Contact An Experienced Indiana Sexual Assault & Abuse Attorney
If you or a loved one were sexually abused or assaulted, our experienced personal injury attorneys are here to help. You have powerful legal rights. Take action now. No one can silence your voice. Our legal partners at Wagner Reese have the experience and resources to support you through this difficult time.
You may have a civil case for financial damages. Filing suit can be a powerful step on your road to recovery, as you take control over a terrible situation and tell your story to the world. You can make them pay for what happened to you.
Learn more about your legal options in a free consultation today. Your consultation is completely confidential, and comes at charge and no obligation. Worried about the expense of filing a lawsuit? Don't be. Our dedicated attorneys only offer their services on a contingency-fee basis, which means you pay us nothing until we secure compensation in your case.
The local office of Wagner Reese is located at:
201 N. Illinois St. 16th Fl.
Indianapolis, IN 46204