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 will go into effect December 1, 2019 and will allow past victims to file case for two years, no matter when the abuse occurred.
This follows a similar course set by New York 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.
The new NJ law extends the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse claims to when the survivor reaches the age of 55 or seven years after “discovery of the abuse” in the cases where severe psychological or emotional injury has resulted in repressed memories of the abuse. Survivors who had been previously barred from filing lawsuits will have a two-year window to pursue their case.
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.
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. Victims are often groomed to trust and become comfortable with improper behavior exhibited by an abuser.
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 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, and now, the State of New Jersey to move forward with legislation to assist survivors in telling their story and seeking justice.
It has 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 has been expanded to include 324 clergy members, including multiple nuns.
The list of alleged abusers 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.
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.
Child Sexual Abuse in Other Institutions
The Boy Scouts have come under fire as a list of 52 former Boy Scout leaders was published but may be expanding. 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.
More victims remain in other organizations including:
- Churches and religious institutions
- Private schools
- Community groups and clubs
- 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 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
For New Jersey Victims, the five NJ dioceses have set up a new compensation fund in collaboration, to offer alleged victims’ settlements in exchange for agreeing not to file lawsuits against the church. 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 victims to report abuse.
Survivors of child sexual abuse should seek advice from an attorney before accepting compensation or signing any agreements. Survivors have a right to compensation for medical and psychological costs, lost wages, pain and suffering and compensation for other issues. Each case is different and must be evaluated separately by an attorney who is familiar with New Jersey child sexual abuse and clergy abuse lawsuits.