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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 646-685-8045 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.


Should the Child Victims Act Deadline Be Extended?

Posted on Sunday, February 9th, 2020 at 9:00 pm    

Since the Child Victims Act (CVA) passed in New York on February 14, 2019, thousands of victims of child sexual abuse filed lawsuits against their attackers.

The law lifted the strict statute of limitations on child sex crimes, allowing victims who were previously barred from action to file criminal charges against their abusers. The three main points of the CVA law follow:

  • Opens a one-year “look back” window for anyone who was the victim of a sex crime as a child to pursue a civil claim, regardless of how long ago it happened. This affects those who were unable to file a lawsuit under the old law.
  • Allows legal action against perpetrators and institutions that enabled the crimes until the victim turns 55.
  • Extends New York’s statute of limitations in criminal cases, giving individuals the opportunity to pursue a felony case against their sexual abuser up until the age of 28.

With the one-year deadline quickly approaching in August, lawmakers pushed for an extension. If the new bill gets signed, it will give victims of molestation and sexual abuse an additional year to come forward and pursue civil action. Those who back the bill say it’s a necessary move because many survivors don’t know about the law yet, and some need more time to come forward.

Backlash over Governor Cuomo’s Hesitation to Support the Extension

In a joint statement issued by state lawmakers on March 4, they asked New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to consider passing the new bill. Cuomo wasn’t sure it made sense to issue an extension of the deadline. He said the one-year window was appropriate, and that’s why the law issued that specific deadline in the first place.

Multiple New York assemblywomen and a Senator, who all survived child sexual abuse, responded to Governor Cuomo that the 1,600 cases filed so far were just the beginning. They asserted that there are many other victims out there that deserve justice.

Speaking from experience, they also stated how difficult it is for a lot of people to open up about their abuse. For some, it takes years to say it out loud, let alone pursue criminal charges against their abuser. They asked that Cuomo give victims more time to come forward and seek justice when they’re ready.

The lawmakers’ statement to the Governor followed a backlash from multiple survivors throughout New York. They pointed to the fact that a lot of people are struggling to retain legal counsel or don’t realize the new law even exists. They also pointed out the state’s lack of campaigns informing the public of their rights under the Child Victims Act.

Other States Setting the Tone for the Child Victims Act Window

New York is not alone is its discussions of laws related to childhood sexual abuse and statute of limitations. Multiple states already passed laws allowing a specific window for filing lawsuits, some as long as two years, and many more are considering legislation similar to New York’s Child Victims Act.

New Jersey

Governor Phil Murphy signed a law allowing victims of child abuse to sue until they turn 55 years old. Those who couldn’t pursue compensation because of the strict statute of limitations now get a two-year window to file a lawsuit against their attacker and the institutions involved.

California

An amendment to the civil statute of limitations and passage of the California Child Victims Act allow the following:

  • Victims can file a lawsuit within three years of realizing their injury or condition resulted from their childhood sexual abuse.
  • For those whose statute of limitations expired, they have the opportunity of a one-year window to file a civil suit against their abuser regardless of any current statute of limitations.

Georgia

State lawmakers are considering reviving the Hidden Predator Act, which provides a one-year window for victims of any age to file a lawsuit against their alleged childhood sexual abuse perpetrator and any entity associated with the abuse.

Montana

A bill that changed Montana’s sexual abuse laws includes the following provisions:

  • Victims whose statute of limitations had passed could sue their abuser within a one-year window.
    Childhood sexual assault victims would have until age 27 to file a lawsuit.
  • A civil claim could get filed within three years of discovering the victim suffered harm from their childhood abuse.

Hawaii

Under the new legislation, passed last year, victims of childhood molestation and sexual abuse can file a lawsuit until April 24, 2020. The statute extension allows individuals of any age to seek justice against any person, institution, business, or corporation involved in the crime.

New York Organizations Under Scrutiny

A lawsuit filed in January 2020 against Boy Scout leader, school district employee, and former village mayor Victor Sine made headlines. The plaintiff, Scott Coats, alleged that Sine sexually abused him in the 1970s. Despite reporting the abuse to the Boy Scouts of America and the Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office in 1999, no one did anything about the accusations.

Under the Child Victims Act, he’s now able to pursue action for the horror he had to endure when he was only 13-years old. In a recent news conference, he spoke publicly for the first time about his allegations against Sine, who died in 2018.

After coming forward, Coats discovered that multiple people were aware of Sine’s abuse against children. He believed that the people who knew about the abuse were either bullied by Sine or afraid to speak up about their suspicions.

Local Cases Against the Diocese Under the Child Victims Act

A majority of cases filed in New York were against the Syracuse Catholic Diocese. Mostly filed in Onondaga County, 45 cases cited allegations under the Child Victims Act. In May, the diocese paid 79 individuals of sex abuse a total of $11 million on behalf of its Independent Reconciliation Compensation Program.

In additional lawsuits filed against the Syracuse diocese, eight priests accounted for two-thirds of the cases. The diocese publicly acknowledged all but one priest as receiving credible allegations of sexual abuse against a child. Between the eight priests, there were a total of 26 claims filed.

In total, there were lawsuits filed against 28 diocese employees. Most of them were priests, but claims also were brought against a janitor and group home worker. Nine priests accused of committing child sex abuse were missing from the diocese’s credible allegations list. One priest got reinstated after the victim decided not to cooperate in the investigation.

Of all the claims against Catholic priests, 21 of them involve abuse that allegedly happened in the 1970s. The oldest claim occurred in 1953, while the most recent allegation stemmed from abuse in 1998. Claims against the church involve individuals who were between 4- and 17- years old when the sexual abuse first started.

Help for Survivors of Sexual Abuse

If you or a loved one were the victims of childhood sexual abuse, it’s your right to seek justice against the perpetrator. The attorneys at Hach & Rose, LLP understand the devastating effects of abuse. It can negatively impact every area of your life and create long-lasting emotional pain.

With the one year “look back” window, you’re allowed to seek compensation, no matter when your abuse occurred. While we recognize that financial compensation can never fully make up for the trauma you’ve suffered, we hope it can help you find a new path forward.

You’re not in this alone. When you hire us, we’ll walk you through every step of your lawsuit, so you understand what to expect. Our compassionate, attentive attorneys will be by your side from start to finish of your case, and we’ll fight hard to pursue a fair financial award and ensure your abuser gets punished for their actions.

Our team of legal professionals is available 24/7, so you can reach us when you need us. We provide a free, confidential consultation to all prospective clients. There’s no risk or obligation in meeting with us.

The lawyers from Hach & Rose, LLP have over 100 years of combined experience, and we’ll use the full weight of our skills and resources to seek justice for you. Call us at 646-685-8045 today, or contact us online.

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