An Opportunity to Be Heard
In May of 2019, New Jersey Governor, Phil Murphy signed a law to allow survivors of child sexual abuse more time to seek justice and compensation for the injuries they’ve suffered. The new law went into effect December 1, 2019, and extended the statute of limitations to age 55 or seven years after “discovery of abuse” for cases where severe psychological or emotional injury resulted in repressed memories of the abuse. Prior to signing of the law, child victims had to file by age 20 or within two years of “discovery”.
The law also allowed a “look back” period for survivors to file case for two years, no matter when the abuse occurred, even if the statute of limitations had expired. Survivors who had been previously barred from filing lawsuits due to the statute of limitations had a two-year window to pursue their case. The window of time to file cases under the law expired in December 2021 and has not been extended, though survivors and advocates remain hopeful.
This follows a similar course set by New York and other states to increase the time child sexual abuse survivors have in order to file criminal cases or civil lawsuits against their abusers. Previously, law in New Jersey allowed for only a two-year statute of limitation lawsuits. This had limited the ability of survivors of sexual abuse from seeking justice from the individuals who harmed them and from churches, non-profits and other groups who looked the other way, particularly when memories of sexual abuse are often repressed.
Survivors of clergy or child sexual abuse have the right to be heard and to receive justice. The truth needs to be told and children should not be made to suffer at the hands of our most trusted members of society. Thousands of child sexual abuse lawsuits have already been filed including at least 820 lawsuits against Catholic church officials in Jew Jersey. A number of people in New Jersey and other states may already have been compensated.
If you or someone you know is a survivor of clergy abuse or child sexual abuse by officials in church, private schools, sports teams, clubs, or other institutions, you can seek justice. Fill out our form on this page or call us. Contacting us is free and confidential. You deserve to be heard.
Survivors of Sexual Abuse
People who have survived childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a trusted authority such as clergy, teachers, coaches, and group leaders, may face challenges that last a lifetime. They may experience feelings of shame, guilt, anxiety, anger, or depression and may have problems with substance or alcohol abuse or be at risk for PTSD, suicide, or other mental health challenges.
Survivors of child sexual abuse may be reluctant to come forward, may not remember the event clearly until much later, or may be unaware of how much the trauma has impacted their lives. In addition, childhood sexual abuse may begin much earlier and encompass much more than just an event or an attack. Children are often groomed to trust and become comfortable with improper behavior by abusers.
Child sexual abuse can include:
- Sexual harassment
- Unwanted physical touching with or without clothes
- Lewd gestures or comments
- Provision of drugs or alcohol to encourage trust and sexual behavior
- Exposure to pornographic images or videos
- Statutory rape
- Sexual assault
- Threats of harm to demand compliance
- Threats of harm to hide abuse
New Jersey Clergy Sexual Abusers Exposed
Legislation to improve the outlook for child sexual abusers had been stalled in many states until a 2019 grand jury released the names of over 300 Catholic clergy accused of abuse in Pennsylvania. This action has helped to prompt the State of New York, the State of New Jersey and others to move forward with legislation to assist survivors in telling their story and seeking justice.
It also prompted a release of names by New Jersey Catholic officials who initially named 188 accused abusers in multiple dioceses. Since the first list emerged, the number of accused expanded to include 324 clergy members, including multiple nuns, who had reportedly abused more than 1,000 children.
Catholic diocese in Pennsylvania and other states, have established compensation funds which have been administered through a third-party claims verifier. Several diocese in New Jersey including the Camden diocese have filed for bankruptcy, making civil lawsuits likely to be delayed, though criminal cases will proceed uninterrupted.
In September 2022, as part of a 2020 bankruptcy filing, the Camden diocese attempted to settle sexual abuse claims for a total of $87.5 million. The compensation was to be paid after a 9-page questionnaire with payments estimated to be $300,000 for each of the approximately 300 survivors. This settlement was rejected by a federal judge over concerns that the fund could be burdened with illegitimate claims.
The published list of alleged abusers in New Jersey dioceses includes more than:
- 63 priests and deacons in the Archdiocese of Newark
- 57 in Diocese of Camden
- 30 in Diocese of Trenton
- 28 in Diocese of Patterson
- 11 in Diocese of Metuchen
- 3 nuns
- Several monks and priests in Catholic schools and other institutions
- Multiple priests in other Catholic organizations
Church officials have noted that research dates back to 1940 and that 100 of the named accusers are deceased. Officials also state that names were reportedly given to law enforcement agencies and the New Jersey Attorney General’s office is looking into whether the Catholic Church allegations of abuse were properly handled by the dioceses. Plaintiffs have alleged that the church has failed to disclose hundreds of cases.
Unfortunately, some advocates have noted that the way the list was released may make it difficult to connect accused priests with individual churches or parishes, as the names of the parishes are not listed, and the priests may have been moved. Other dioceses around the country have released similar lists and though advocates acknowledge that action has been taken, some are skeptical that the lists are complete.
The lists also offer no information as to what actions were taken, if any, by the dioceses with regards to addressing the abuse. More than 820 lawsuits have been filed since the December 2019 law was enacted.
Child Sexual Abuse in Other Institutions
In addition to the Catholic Clergy Abuse claims, hundreds of complaints against other groups have also been filed. The Boy Scouts have come under fire with dozens of child sexual abuse lawsuit filings as the second most commonly named group, according to the New Jersey Administrative Office of the courts.
A list of 52 former Boy Scout leaders was published but may have been much larger. Though the Boy Scout and Catholic clergy list may address abuse within those institutions, many children in other organizations have also been abused. Names of other clergy members such as Jesuit priests, Benedictine monks, and those who worked at schools or organizations run by religious orders, were not included on the New Jersey lists.
A number of lawsuits against schools and government, departments, authorities, and facilities have also been filed, along with three cases against a Warren County Sheriff accused of sexual abuse of minors in custody or detention. Several of these cases have been settled for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Other organizations facing lawsuits alleging sexual abuse include:
- Churches and religious institutions
- Private schools
- Community groups and clubs
- Foster homes
- Government facilities
- Sports teams
Abuse lists have begun in other states and regions as well. Abuser lists have already been published in dioceses of New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Missouri, and Texas. An intensive search for abusers in other institutions such as Pentecostal and Southern Baptist churches around the country has also begun.
Abuse survivors should have the right to seek justice and healing, no matter what type of group was involved.
Compensating Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse
The five New Jersey dioceses have set up a compensation fund to offer survivors settlements in exchange for agreeing not to file lawsuits against the church, but that effort may be delayed due to bankruptcy filing. Counseling has also been offered.
Taking compensation or services from established funds may prevent survivors from being able to participate in future compensation recovery efforts, even when the laws change in favor of victims’ rights. The New Jersey attorney general’s office has also set up a hotline for alleged survivors to report abuse and survivors of childhood sexual abuse or clergy sexual abuse should seek legal advice.
If you are a survivor of child sexual abuse, you have a right to seek justice and compensation for medical costs, counseling costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other issues. Each case is unique and should be evaluated by a lawyer who is experienced in New Jersey child sexual and clergy abuse lawsuits.