Survivors of childhood sexual abuse, including clergy sexual abuse, often are prevented from filing civil lawsuits pursuant to New Jersey’s narrow statute of limitations for these types of cases. In the past, childhood sexual abuse survivors had to file their civil suit within two years after they turned 18. Under a new law recently approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, that is about to change.
Changing the Statute of Limitations
Under new legislation, adult survivors of sexual assault have up to 37 years after turning 18 to file a civil lawsuit and recover damages for emotional or psychological injuries stemming from the abuse. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse can bring their claim up until they turn 55. Those over age 55 have up to seven years after they discover or realize they had been sexually abused to file a claim. The new legislation recognizes that the survivors are traumatized to such an extent that they may not immediately remember the details of their abuse.
Victim advocacy groups, such as the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) have long argued that the previous two-year statute of limitations prevented many individuals from obtaining justice. New Jersey has been in the minority of states that have not previously expanded their statute of limitations to allow more survivors of childhood sexual abuse to bring their claims. Following the 2002 Boston Globe Spotlight report, which revealed how pervasive the clergy abuse problem was in the Catholic Church, many states amended their sexual abuse statute of limitations requirements.
One of the major impetuses behind the expansion of the statute of limitations period appears to be the growing number of sexual abuse claims being made against Catholic priests and church officials in New Jersey. This past fall, New Jersey Attorney General, Gurbir Grewal, initiated a state-wide investigation into allegations of clergy sexual abuse within New Jersey Catholic dioceses. In response, five Catholic dioceses released the names of almost 200 priests and deacons that have been credibly accused of molesting children over several decades. The Catholic Church has also created the New Jersey Compensation Fund for Victims of Church Sexual Abuse of Minors, which will evaluate abuse claims and pay settlements to approved individuals in exchange for a release of liability against the Church.
Hope for Previously Barred Claims
The new law will provide hope for those childhood sexual abuse survivors who were previously barred from filing a lawsuit due to the restrictive statute of limitations. These individuals will be allowed to bring their cases during a new two-year window, which will run from December 1, 2019 to November 30, 2021. By retroactively extending the statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases, the legislators believe they are one step closer to holding accountable all perpetuators of sexual abuse throughout the state, both clergy and non-clergy.
Red Bank Sexual Abuse Lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. Handle All Types of Sexual Abuse Matters
For further clarification on how the recent changes to New Jersey’s sexual abuse statute of limitations could affect you, contact an experienced Red Bank sexual abuse lawyer at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. today. With offices conveniently located in Red Bank and Marlton, New Jersey, we represent individuals in sexual abuse cases throughout the state, including Cherry Hill and Middletown. To schedule a free confidential consultation, call our Red Bank office at 732-842-6500 or our Marlton office at 856-985-9800 or contact us online.