Justice for Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse
Posted on Saturday, February 22nd, 2020 at 9:14 pm
Per a new provision under the New York Child Victims Act, the statute of limitations has been temporarily lifted. The bill passed last year, granting a one-year time period for victims of childhood sex abuse to pursue civil claims against their abuser. The bill signed into law by New York Governor George Cuomo is groundbreaking for those who were abused or molested at a young age, but previously unable to file a lawsuit due to New York’s statute of limitations.
Even if it’s decades later, you can still pursue financial compensation. The three components under the Child Victims Act include the following:
- Regardless of when the abuse occurred, victims are allowed to seek civil action during a one-year window.
- Victims can pursue a civil claim against their abuser and institutions involved in the crime until the age of 55.
- Extends New York’s statute of limitations in criminal cases, allowing people who were sexually abused as a child to file a lawsuit until they turn 28 years old.
During the first 24 hours after the passage of the bill, hundreds of people filed lawsuits throughout New York. Currently, law firms around the country represent thousands of victims of sexual abuse who are taking action as a result of the Child Victims Act. They expect even more people to come forward before the August 2020 deadline.
Victims spent many years arguing that the child sex crimes statute of limitations was restrictive. It didn’t take into consideration the amount of time it could take for someone to process the abuse they suffered and feel ready to open up about it. When Gov. Cuomo finally signed the new bill into law, it allowed survivors and their families to seek justice.
Priests Accused of Sexual Abuse under the Child Victims Act
Abusers come in many forms. People you should trust and feel safe around are also capable of horrific crimes. Multiple lawsuits in New York stated priests, camp counselors, teachers, sports coaches, and doctors as the perpetrator of childhood abuse.
In many of the claims, some accusers never came forward before, or even said out loud that they suffered from sexual abuse as a child. Others are targeting their abuser as well as other individuals and entities responsible for covering up the crime. Additionally, many other people tried their case in court once before, but it got dismissed because of the prior statute of limitations laws.
There were over 400 lawsuits filed against the Syracuse Catholic diocese and those associated with the church. Allegations also revealed that the hierarchy hid the truth about sexual abuse occurring under its watch.
Since passing the new bill under the Child Victims Act, victims of more than 1,260 claims of childhood sexual abuse received a total of $228 million from a reconciliation program initiated by eight Catholic dioceses in New York.
Surprising Lawsuits Against Institutions Meant to Protect Us
One of the first ten lawsuits filed in New York was by Gregory Wilson. The 56-year-old man claimed a staff member at the Convalescent Hospital for Children beat and raped him when he was only eight years old.
During his stay, Wilson reported that the abuse occurred more often when he was younger and became less frequent as time progressed. He initially started residing in the hospital because of the abuse he endured by his stepfather.
Despite notifying his family of repeated sexual abuse, they did nothing to remove him from the hospital. He ran away multiple times, but got caught each time and suffered severe punishments.
His story is just one of thousands of instances where a defenseless child could not escape their abuser. The time he spent in the hospital negatively impacted him for decades.
In another case, a plaintiff who wished to remain anonymous alleged that employees from The Children’s Village abused him for years in the mid-1970s. The center houses troubled youths and provides a treatment program. In the lawsuit, the victim stated that staff members and older residents sexually abused him repeatedly during his stay.
After coming forward and filing the lawsuit, the accused abuser found out about it and threatened the plaintiff’s life. According to court documents, the defendant told the plaintiff he would cut him up into pieces if he told anyone else about the sexual abuse.
A 51-year-old man accused a former employee from the Salvation Army’s Youth Center of sexually assaulting him in 1985. At the time, the plaintiff was only 16 years old and homeless. He stated that the abuse first started while he was under the legal guardianship of the youth center.
The victim cited acts of sexual abuse, rape, harassment, and violence during a four-month timeframe. He listed seven defendants in his lawsuit, including the Salvation Army, the Salvation Army of Binghamton (formerly named Open Door Youth Center), and five individuals.
He accused his principal abuser of grooming and taking advantage of him at his most vulnerable stage in life. He also alleged that the Salvation Army should have known about the perpetrator’s prior felony and time spent in prison before hiring him.
Should Lawmakers Allow an Extension?
Talks of possibly extending the deadline under the new Child Victims Act began earlier in the year. A group of legislators, who also survived childhood abuse, released a statement to Gov. Cuomo about a new bill with a new filing deadline.
They said they believed an additional year needed to get added to the window. Gov. Cuomo met the new bill with some hesitation. He stated that the original bill he signed was well-written and provided an adequate amount of time for victims to sue their abusers.
However, the New York legislators argued that most people who suffer from child sex abuse take years, or even decades, to process what happened to them. Some are afraid or ashamed to come forward with their experiences. Others might not have the time or money to pursue legal action.
Additionally, a lot of people still don’t know about their rights under the Child Victims Act. Lawmakers said current campaigns haven’t appropriately notified people of their ability to pursue their case despite the prior statute of limitations laws.
Precedence for Pushing Back the Deadline
During discussions with Gov. Cuomo about the proposed bill, New York lawmakers pointed out similar bills around the country. Almost a dozen states already enacted child abuse laws with extended deadlines for filing suit. Some of them are also considering additional reforms.
Neighboring New Jersey issued a two-year window for victims to sue their attackers and any institutions involved in covering up the abuse. In states like California and Montana, those abused in their younger years can file a civil claim within three years of realizing the harm they suffered.
In addition to the multiple states already passing laws to temporarily ignore strict statutes of limitations, other states are considering taking the same stance. Many legislators believe the lawsuits already filed are just the beginning. They want to give the other victims out there sufficient time to get comfortable with the idea of moving forward with their case.
Standing Up to Your Abuser
You’re not alone in the fight. Many victims of childhood sexual abuse are afraid to admit what happened to them. They are afraid of the consequences of pointing the finger at their abuser and taking legal action. Our lawyers at Hach & Rose, LLP understand that many victims are afraid of filing a lawsuit, and we’re here to help.
When you hire a lawyer to represent you, we will be by your side every step of the way. Lawsuits are complex and challenging to navigate. At Hach & Rose, LLP, we firmly believe in compassionate representation above all else, and we value your well-being.
We are extremely experienced in and dedicated to this specialized area of law, and we understand that litigating these cases is about much more than getting financial compensation. We’re here to help you seek justice, and provide you with all the support you need.
Hach & Rose, LLP Can Represent You in Your Sexual Abuse Case
Call Hach & Rose, LLP immediately if you or someone you know was the victim of sexual abuse as a child. We’re available 24/7, so you can reach us whenever you need us. We believe in fighting for our clients’ rights and ensuring fair treatment.
We know this is a sensitive topic to discuss. We’ll always treat you with compassion and put your needs first. When you hire us, we’ll review the details of your claim and determine the best course of action moving forward. You can depend on us to be there for you from beginning to end.
With over 100 years of combined experience, we have the skills needed to seek justice for our clients. Call us at (212) 779-0057 to schedule your free, confidential consultation. There is no risk or obligation when you receive legal advice from us. We’re here to listen and answer your questions.