New Jersey Gives Time for Victims of Sexual Abuse to File Lawsuits Against Their Abusers
New Jersey has become the 11th state in the country to pass legislation that gives survivors of sexual abuse more time to take their abusers to court. NorthJersey.com reported that New Jersey Senator Joseph Vitale, “a primary sponsor of the bill who has been fighting for the legislation for the past 15 years,” said the bill will become effective on December 1, 2019. The signing of the bill Governor Phil Murphy significantly extends the statute of limitations to pursue civil litigation against sexual abusers.
According to NorthJersey.com, the signing of this bill received high praise from not just Sen. Vitale, but other advocates as well. The NJ director of SNAP and the president of Road to Recovery, an NJ-based organization that supports victims of sexual abuse, both expressed gratitude that more victims of sexual abuse in NJ will have the ability to seek justice in court.
New Jersey Expands Narrow Statute of Limitations to Help Victims of Child Sexual Abuse
New Jersey’s current law gives victims of child sexual abuse until the age of 20 to pursue litigation. Other victims of sexual abuse, meaning those abused as adults, have two years to pursue litigation. Like many other states who have extended the statute of limitations, NJ leaders realized that it could take years for children who are abused to remember and “come to grips” with the trauma they experienced. For victims abused by catholic priests or other religious leaders, the ability to come forward for many was made nearly impossible because of the systemic, institution-wide cover-up by the church.
Beginning December 1, victims of child sexual abuse will have until they turn 55, or “within seven years of their realization that the abuse caused them harm,” to sue their abusers. The bill also provides two years for victims previously barred from suing their abusers under the previous statute of limitations to file lawsuits.
Victims of Clergy Sexual Abuse Will Have Choices
While this legislation benefits all victims of sexual abuse, it is particularly meaningful to those who suffered as children from sexual abuse by priests and other clergy members of the catholic church. In February, the five Catholic dioceses of New Jersey released the names of nearly 200 deacons and priests who were “credibly accused of sexually abusing children over a period of decades, dating back to the 1940s.”
The New Jersey Catholic church, like many in other states, also announced the creation of a victim compensation fund.
The old statute of limitations barred many victims of sexual abuse as children from pursuing litigation. What does this mean? They do not get to confront their abusers in open court. They do not get the satisfaction of giving testimony or questioning the people who were supposed to protect them. These actions can be critical to the healing process, especially after experiencing decades of silence, shame, guilt, and all of the horrible emotional and physical injuries that sexual abuse causes.
As Senator Vitale stated, what makes the new law important, is that “it allows victims to have a choice. With a compensation fund, there’s no discovery. You are offered a sum of money for your injury and therapy. But the public doesn’t know what happened or who the pedophiles are, and that’s critical to know so we can protect children. We can’t trust institutions to be honest.”
Victims can now choose an option that will not just provide them with compensation but will also give them the opportunities to confront their abusers and the institutions that protected them.
Contact Our Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawyers at Alonso Krangle, LLP, if you were abused as a child or adult in New Jersey. You might have rights under the new statute of limitations that were previously unavailable. Find out more about your clergy sexual abuse claim by calling our office today at 800-403-6191.