An Opportunity to Be Heard
Following over a decade of partisan dissent, on February 14, 2019, Governor Cuomo signed the New York Child Victims Act into law, extending the statute of limitations for survivors of child sexual abuse to file criminal and civil claims against their abusers. Under this new law, survivors may now bring criminal claims against their abusers until they attain the age of 28, and may file a civil lawsuit until they attain the age of 55. If the statute of limitations expired prior to the passing of this law, a survivor has a 1-year window in which to file their claim. The legislatures of New Jersey and Pennsylvania are currently considering similar changes to their laws.
As a result, hundreds of survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of priests, ministers, and other members of the clergy, as well as teachers, are telling their stories. The truth needs to be told. Survivors deserve justice. Children should not be made to suffer by members of our society that we often place the most trust in.
If you are a survivor of sexual abuse by a member of the clergy or a teacher, you are not alone. We are here to help sexual abuse survivors of all ages. Contacting us is free and your information will remain confidential. Take action today by calling or filing out the form on this page.
Survivors of Sexual Abuse
The trauma of childhood sexual abuse doesn’t end when you grow up. Children who were survivors of sexual abuse by a member of the clergy, a teacher, or camp counselor, often face lifelong challenges with guilt, depression, isolation and anxiety. They are often at higher than normal risk for substance abuse, alcoholism, suicide, PTSD and other mental health conditions. Abuse is often kept hidden and victims are reluctant or unable to come forward for months or years after the events.
Child sexual abuse does not always start with an “attack.” Sexual abuse often begins much earlier, when a predator begins to “groom” their victim to erode innate defenses. This is particularly important when the abuser is in a position of trust or authority – such as a clergy member or teacher.
Abuse can include:
- Sexual harassment or threats
- Unwanted touching while clothed or unclothed
- Lewd acts, comments or gestures
- Sharing of pornographic images or videos
- Providing alcohol or intoxicants to encourage sexual behavior or reduce defenses
- Indecent exposure
- Sexual assaults
- Statutory rape
Lifting the Statute of Limitations for Clergy Abuse
Recent reporting has shown that incidences of clergy abuse is much more widespread than previously known and have affected many thousands of children and adolescents in New York and nationwide. When dealing with clergy abuse, a religious institution or organization may “hush” up the scandal, silencing the victims.
In many cases, survivors of child sexual abuse will not report the events for months or even years or decades due to the nature of the crimes. Survivors may live in denial or face situations where abuse is suppressed purposefully or due to repressed memories.
The statute of limitations on reporting crimes related to child sexual abuse or molestation vary from state to state and may be as short as a few years after the event has occurred. In some cases, the survivors are still children or only a few months or years into adulthood when the statute of limitations has expired.
Some states (now including New York), have taken recent action to expand the statute of limitations pertaining to clergy child sexual abuse, increasing the age to file criminal complaints or civil lawsuits or removing the age limits altogether. Like the current regulations, the statutory changes vary by state.
Recently, dioceses in New York and New Jersey have published lists of clergy members who have been accused of sexually abusing children.
Financial Compensation for Sexual Abuse Survivors
As governmental awareness of the breadth of clergy and other childhood abuses continues to increase, the need for justice also increases. In many states, including New York, survivors of child sexual abuse now have broader rights to pursue justice against their abuser and should seek legal advice.
Each case is unique and though nothing can change the past, survivors may be entitled to financial compensation for counseling, medical costs, and pain and suffering. Survivors of child sexual or clergy abuse should seek advice from an attorney.
They Were Sexually Abused Long Ago as Children. Now They Can Sue in N.Y., New York Times (1/2019)
Will Clergy Sex Abuse Allegations Spur Change in Statute-of-Limitation Laws?, Governing (8/2018)
States consider easing statute of limitations on child sex-abuse cases, PBS(1/2019)
CHILD SEX ABUSE STATUTES OF LIMITATION, Child USA (1/2019)