Mar 28, 2024

NY’s Strict Statute of Limitation on Child Sex Abuse Could Change in 2017

clergy child sex abuse lawsuit

As liberal as New York State is considered in terms of civil rights, there is one area of the law where critics believe the Empire State is far behind. New York has one of the strictest Statute of Limitation laws for child sex abuse cases, resulting in proposals and programs that seek to circumvent the law and get survivors justice in 2017.

Victims of child sex abuse in New York have one of the shortest windows in the country for pursuing sexual abuse complaints in court, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal. Under current law, victims only have five years after they turn 18 to come forward and file a suit against their abuser.

The Problem with NY’s SOL Law

The current law poses a great limitation on victims who either cannot or will not disclose their abuse until they are an adult. This is not a small number of victims, as between 60 and 80 percent of adults who were sexually abused as children do not disclose this abuse until they are older adults, according to data from 501(c)(3) non-profit organization Prevent Child Abuse New York.

Too often, these victims aren’t able to reveal the abuse they endured until this statute of limitation has long passed. This may be due to factors such as shame, fear of retaliation, loyalty conflict (in the case of abuse by previously trusted people), incomprehension, and more, according to psychiatrist Dr. Richard Kluft in an article about child sex abuse trauma in Psychiatric Times.

As a result, a strict statute of limitation not only denies the victim an option for legal recourse, as it is too late to file a suit, but potentially puts other children at risk of abuse by unidentified offenders.

Fortunately, from rallies to independent programs, 2017 is already seeing a number of efforts to change or get around New York’s strict law in order to obtain some measure of justice for these victims of child sex abuse.

The NY Child Victims Act

Lawmakers and survivors gathered in Albany, which has kicked off a new legislative session this Wednesday, to push for the passage of a bill that could make it easier for survivors of child sex abuse to file lawsuits against their abuser.

The NY Child Victims Act, which has long been stalled by the state Senate, aims to eliminate the current time limit on sex abuse cases. The law would also provide a one-time, one-year window to allow victims previously unable to seek legal recourse under the law to revive their claim, according to the NY Child Victims Act’s website.

Proponents of the bill hope that this one-time, one-year window will help to discover previously unidentified sex offenders and stop their rampant abuse.

“When California enacted its [Child Victims] law, the state discovered more than 300 undetected predators. Delaware, a much smaller state, has discovered more than 60. Given that predators have multiple victims, thousands of children have now been protected in just these two pioneering states,” states the NY Child Victims Act petition.

This bill’s passage in 2017 is a priority for Gov. Cuomo, according to an article by NY Daily News. While it’s yet to be seen whether the bill will indeed pass this year, some lawmakers are pushing hard for the bill to be picked up.

“Enough is enough,” Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal said about the passage of the bill to NDN. “Our law right now allows child rapists to walk free while victims must beat the proverbial clock.”

The Archdiocese of New York Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program

Survivors who suffered sexual abuse from a clergy member of the Archdiocese of New York may see justice in 2017 as a result of a newly formed program, even if the instance of abuse took place decades ago.

Inspired by Pope Francis’ efforts to reform the Catholic church and take a “zero tolerance” stance on sex abuse, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan founded the Archdiocese of New York Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program. This program aims to help victims in New York heal from the trauma of sexual abuse, and hopes to provide a model for other diocese in the future.

“I wish I would have done this quite a while ago,” said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan about the program in an interview, according to the New York Times.

IRCP will be headed by Kenneth R. Feinberg, who ran the federal Sept. 11 victims fund. In a press conference statement, Mr. Feinberg expressed his hope that the program will help victims to come out of the shadows.

“We hope the Program will be successful and that victims will come forward in a timely fashion to participate in the Program,” said Mr. Feinberg at the Catholic Center of New York Archdiocese press conference.

This program is tasked with determining eligibility and awarding compensation for victims of sexual abuse by the clergy. The IRCP is operating in two phases to address known victims and victims who have not come forward to the church yet. Both phases take place in early 2017 and there is no aggregate cap for individual case compensation, according to the Archdiocese. This means that the Archdiocese agrees to pay what the administrators of the program deem appropriate in each and every individual case.

Phase I and II of the IRCP

Phase I focuses on the approximately 170 known victims of sexual abuse who have come forward to the church in the past about their abuse but have not yet received settlements from the Archdiocese. All claims must be postmarked no later than Jan. 31, 2017, according to the Archdiocese.

Phase II, which is estimated to begin on Feb. 1, 2017, allows victims who have not previously named their abuser in the Archdiocese to come forward, even if the alleged abuse took place decades ago.

For these victims who can no longer seek legal recourse due to New York’s SOL laws, the IRCP program may be the only opportunity to seek justice and compensation, unless the NY Child Victims Act is passed in the future.

Helping Victims to Heal

Our attorneys recognize how difficult the healing process is for victims of traumatic events such as child sex abuse. If you were a victim of child sex abuse by a clergy member of the Archdiocese of New York, we want to help.

Contact our attorneys today at 877-785-3815 for more details about the IRCP. You may be entitled to compensation.