Second Chance for Victims of Child Sex Abuse Upheld

Posted on Friday, September 4th, 2020 at 2:22 am    

Usually, in order to pursue legal action against another party, there are statutes of limitations victims must follow. In New York, these strict deadlines apply to civil lawsuits against sex abusers. Our legislators recognized and remedied an important problem with this system.

Unfortunately, those deadlines don’t allow child sex abuse victims to seek accountability years or decades later. Under the Child Victims Act, survivors have an extended window to sue their abuser in the civil court system for compensation.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo first signed the law in January 2019, giving child sex abuse victims a full year to file a lawsuit, regardless of the statute of limitations. When the Covid-19 pandemic began, he signed legislation to push back the deadline to January 2021. He recently signed another extension that allows survivors of child sex abuse to pursue legal action until August 14, 2021.

Even better, the courts have upheld victims’ right to seek compensation from their abusers. If you were abused as a child, you have time to decide if legal action is right for you.

What Is the Child Victims Act?

The Child Victims Act allows victims to seek civil action against their abusers for crimes against them as minors. Even if the statute of limitations passed, you could hold individuals and institutions responsible for their involvement in the sexual abuse you suffered as a child.

Under this act:

  • The amount of time to hold abusers accountable for their criminal acts increases;
  • Victims can file a civil lawsuit for child sex abuse until they turn 55 years old;
  • There’s a lookback window to begin legal action against a sex abuser for the crimes they committed regardless of the statute of limitations;
  • It’s not a requirement to file a Notice of Claim for any sexual offenses an adult committed against a minor;
  • The Office of Court Administration can implement the rules and regulations to adjudicate revived actions promptly;
  • There’s an extended statute of limitations for felony sex crimes until the victim turns 28 years old.

The effects of child sexual abuse can last a lifetime. Survivors may spend decades finding the support they need to trust anyone again.

For many, even admitting what they went through is difficult. It could take a lifetime to feel ready, and by then, it could be too late. It’s not. The Child Victims Act gives your time to find a lawyer, build a case, and bring your abuser to court.

New York Diocese Claims the Act is Unconstitutional

According to Newsday, the Diocese of Rockville Centre filed a lawsuit claiming the Child Victims Act violates their rights to due process under the state’s constitution.

According to a spokesman for the diocese, plaintiffs should have pursued legal action within the statutes of limitations for sex crimes. Under the act, child sex abuse victims now have the opportunity to file civil lawsuits far past the usual deadlines.

In May 2020, a judge rejected their lawsuit and ruled that the act does not violate any rights to due process. The diocese set up an independent reconciliation and compensation program to provide fair compensation to sex abuse victims. Since August 2019, 370 people have filed claims with the program, and 277 claimants received a combined $50 million in financial settlements.

The diocese is currently trying to navigate bankruptcy proceedings. They asked that the federal court cease all sex abuse cases against members of the clergy during this period. They said it’s a necessary request because of litigation and appeals costs. In a victory for victim’s rights advocates, the Nassau County Supreme Court denied their request.

Unfortunately, if the diocese does file for bankruptcy, it may prevent survivors from getting their day in court. According to Buffalo News, one abuse survivor, Kevin Koscielniak, is attempting to change bankruptcy laws. He doesn’t think non-profit organizations should have the right to use federal bankruptcy procedures. He also believes lawmakers should get dispense with the criminal statute of limitations entirely.

Lawsuits Are Pending Against a Range of Institutions Throughout New York

The New York Post reports that a new lawsuit was filed with the Manhattan Supreme Court. It alleges that Bishop John Jenik, who oversaw after-school programs at Our Lady of Refuge, and Paul Gruber, another employee, sexually abused their students. Allegedly, Jenik also trafficked a 14-year-old boy to Gruber, knowing about prior instances of abuse.

In the 1980s, a judge convicted Gruber of sexual abuse after the parents of another victim reported him. Jenik tried to interfere with the police investigation by using intimidation tactics to scare the kids into staying quiet. He resigned in 2018 after another allegation surfaced, but maintained his innocence.

According to the Washington Post, Alice Weiss-Russell filed a lawsuit against Girl Scouts of the USA for the sexual abuse she endured in the 1980s when she was only 11 years old. According to the documents, her troop leader’s husband abused her in the bathroom during scout meetings. She alleges that the organization didn’t protect her, and the misconduct continued even after the trooper leader found out about what her husband was doing.

According to the Daily Mail, three women are pursuing legal action against Robert Rusch, a former private school teacher at the Woodard School in Brooklyn. They claim that he sexually abused them multiple times and raped two of them between the late 1960s and early 1970s when they were just 12 years old.

In court filings, they claim other children were also the victims of sexual abuse and assault, and school officials were aware of it. When one of the parents reported Rusch’s behavior, the school fired him but didn’t file a police report in order to maintain their reputation.

Contact Us for Help With Your Case

Sexual abuse is illegal, immoral, and too common. You have the right to demand compensation from your abuser and their employers.

At Hach & Rose, LLP, we care about our clients. When you hire us, we’ll fight to hold your abuser accountable for their actions.

We want to help you move forward with your life with peace of mind. You can depend on us to remain by your side throughout your case and provide the support you need.

Under the Child Victims Act, you can finally bring the person responsible for the trauma you endured as a child to court. Our legal team has the experience, resources, and knowledge to make people pay for their crimes. To schedule your free consultation, call us at 646-685-8045.

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