Opportunity for Sex Abuse Survivors To Seek Justice Under the Child Victims Act
Posted on Friday, February 19th, 2021 at 5:48 pm
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Child Victims Act into law on February 14, 2019. It allows survivors of sexual abuse to seek civil and criminal action against their abusers regardless of how long ago the incident took place. Typically, the statute of limitations requires initiating criminal action within five years from the abuse date and within three years of the victim’s 18th birthday for civil lawsuits. Even if someone was a victim of sexual abuse 30 years ago, they now have a new timeframe for pursuing financial compensation.
The main points included in this Act are:
- A one-year lookback window to pursue prior cases that already passed the filing deadline.
- You can initiate a civil lawsuit until the age of 55.
- You can pursue criminal charges against abusers and liable institutions until you turn 28 years old.
- A judicial training requirement for crimes associated with sexual abuse involving minors has been put in place.
- Notice of claim is no longer necessary for cases against sexual offenders where the victim was a minor.
The lookback window was set to expire on August 14, 2020. However, the Covid-19 pandemic caused issues within the court system, leading to an extension of the deadline. Child sex abuse survivors were given until January 14, 2021 to begin their cases.
Additional Time to File Lawsuits With Another Deadline Extension
The ongoing pandemic created many challenges for seeking criminal and civil penalties under the Child Victims Act. Filing a lawsuit became more complicated, with many courthouses closing or delaying cases already on the docket. Unfortunately, this caused stress for many sex abuse survivors who faced uncertainties about whether they would ever see their day in court.
Governor Cuomo wanted to ensure those affected by the coronavirus would have adequate time to retain a lawyer and prepare their cases before the lookback window ended. Many people lost their jobs and faced difficulties receiving unemployment benefits. Without a source of income, hiring a lawyer is no longer an option for many sex abuse survivors. Cuomo decided to sign legislation providing another extension to the Child Victims Act deadline. Survivors and their families now have until August 14, 2021 to file their civil lawsuits.
Organizations Facing Allegations of Sexual abuse
Sex abusers are not the only ones named in civil lawsuits. Institutions and organizations are also battling legal ramifications for allowing sexual abuse to occur and covering up these incidents. The Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie was recently named in a lawsuit claiming that a boy repeatedly endured sexual abuse from 2004 to 2008 when he was between the ages of 12 and 16 years old.
According to documents filed with the Dutchess County Supreme Court, administrator Helen Fahy allegedly forced the victim to engage in intercourse and oral sex in her office and home at least once a week. She is also a registered sex offender, having served an 18-month prison sentence for raping a minor under 17. The lawsuit accuses the Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie of negligently employing, supervising, and retaining employees they knew were sexually abusing residents.
Another recently filed lawsuit accuses Simon Watts, a former Queens Jackie Robinson elementary school teacher, of sexually abusing an 8-year-old girl from 2007 to 2009. Court documents named Watts, the Department of Education, and the city as defendants in this case. According to the victim’s court filing, the school and city negligently hired, trained, and supervised Watts. They are also liable for keeping him on staff, allowing him access to students.
Watts is currently serving a prison sentence of 35 years after being convicted in June 2013 of sexually abusing four girls and one boy who were all between 8 and 9 years old at the time of the offenses. Three other victims also filed lawsuits against him, the school’s principal, and the Department of Education upon his conviction. In 2018, another former student won a $16 million judgment against the City of Queens for the sexual abuse he endured at the elementary school when he was just eight years old.
Sex Abuse Allegations Against Priests Continue to Rise
According to The New York Times, almost one-third of cases brought under the Child Victims Act involve religious orders against priests. Timothy Schlenz, who was 8 when he spent his Saturdays at a Manhattan church for tutoring sessions, says he was the victim of sexual abuse by Rev. Carleton P. Jones. Court documents allege that Jones groomed Schlenz for a period, eventually molesting him.
At the time, the priest told the 8-year-old boy that the acts he initiated were to check for cancer. However, as an adult, Schlenz realized what really happened and filed a lawsuit in August 2019, naming Father Jones and the Dominican Friars Province of Saint Joseph as defendants in the case.
This is just one of the countless lawsuits against New York churches. With many dioceses facing financial hardships due to the cost of litigation, some were forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The dioceses of Rochester, Long Island Rockville Centre, Buffalo, and Syracuse filed bankruptcy to deal with all sex abuse survivors as one class and alleviate some of the challenges they’ve had to deal with.
Hach & Rose, LLP Can Be Your Advocate
The New York City personal injury lawyers of Hach & Rose, LLP will fight by your side from start to finish of your case. We’ve been representing those who have suffered the consequences of others’ wrongdoings for 20 years. With over 100 years of combined legal experience, our dedicated and compassionate team can help you hold your abuser liable for the harm they caused.
Hach & Rose, LLP understands that no amount of money can change the past or make up for the trauma you went through at the hands of your abuser. However, we hope it can provide some financial relief and compensate for the expenses you incurred while treating your physical or emotional injuries. Our New York City personal injury lawyers are ready to take your call and pursue the justice you rightfully deserve.
If you or a loved one was the victim of child sexual abuse, call Hach & Rose, LLP at (212) 779-0057 right now. We can meet with you for a free consultation to discuss your case and determine the available legal options.