Please note that the time frames discussed in this article relate only to Illinois.
Almost every legal issue has a statute of limitations. This is the window of time that you have to sue someone who has injured you or with whom you have a dispute. In Illinois, the statute of limitations sexual abuse is 10 years. However, the state permits a number of exceptions to the statute of limitations, so you should consult a lawyer experienced in sexual abuse cases to explore your options no matter when the abuse occurred.
A statute of limitations of 10 years means you must file your lawsuit against the other person within 10 years of being abused, or you lose the right to ever bring a lawsuit related to the abuse. The first exception, though, applies if you were abused when you were a child. Minors have 10 years after their 18th birthday to initiate legal action against their abuser – meaning you can file a lawsuit based on childhood sexual abuse up to your 28th birthday. If you have missed this deadline, it can be difficult to bring a lawsuit for your abuse, but it may still be possible.
Illinois has an another exception to the statute of limitations for people who have repressed memories of their childhood abuse. Repressing memories of abuse is a common coping mechanism for individuals who have suffered this type of trauma. This is especially true for victims who were children when the abuse occurred. Once a victim has recovered memories of their abuse, they have 5 years to bring a lawsuit. This is true no matter how long ago the abuse occurred. The abuse memories must be truly repressed or blocked, though. If the victim remembers the abuse but is too upset to tell anyone about it, the regular 10 year statute of limitation applies.
Illinois has another exception for people who were abused as children, and then suffered continued threats, intimidation, manipulation, or fraud by the abuser or by another person acting with or for the abuser. The 10 year statute of limitations, or 5 year if it is a case of repressed memories, will not begin until the threats and intimidations stop.
Many lawyers will accept sexual abuse cases on contingency. This means you don’t have to pay any fee to your attorney until you receive a monetary award at the end of the trial or settlement from the other party. A lawyer will be more likely to take your case, especially on a contingency basis, depending on who you are suing. Most sexual abuse lawsuits are against institutions like schools and churches because these groups have insurance to pay your award or settlement. A lawyer will be less likely to take your case if you are suing an individual, like a family member, because it can be difficult to get them to pay the damage awards.
In Illinois, sexual abuse is generally defined as a variety of sexual conduct. Actions such as rape, molestation, incest and indecent exposure are all included.