New Jersey Law Gives Sexual Abuse Victims More Time To Sue

Beginning December 1, 2019, New Jersey Law Expands Statute of Limitations Allowing Sex Abuse Victims More Time To Sue

The State of New Jersey passed legislation which will empower victims of child sexual abuse to sue their attackers. The new law, which takes effect December 1, 2019, significantly extends the statute of limitations for sexual abuse claims and creates a two-year window for older claims whose statue of limitations had previously expired to be filed. It will now also be easier for survivors to seek damages from the organizations and the institutions that employed abusers and covered up the abuse. 

New Jersey’s old law gave survivors of sexual abuse only two years to sue for damages. A victim of child sexual abuse was allowed to file civil claims within two years after turning age 18, or within two years from the time they become aware of the abuse.  Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law that now enables victims of child sexual abuse to sue their abusers up until they turn 55 years old, or seven years from the date they became aware of the abuse.  But, victims older than 55, will have the two year window beginning December 1, 2019, regardless of their age.

“Survivors of sexual abuse deserve opportunities to seek redress against their abusers,” Murphy said after the signing. “This legislation allows survivors who have faced tremendous trauma the ability to pursue justice through the court system.” 

According to mental health experts and sexual abuse advocates, it often take years for survivors to find the courage to speak about their experience. Many victims are afraid they won’t be believed, or are just too ashamed to talk about the trauma of the abuse.  

States throughout the country have been demanding that current statute of limitations laws involving claims of child sexual abuse be amended. So far, ten other states have passed a similar statute of limitations bill, but the distinction in New Jersey’s law is that the window allows adults who were sexually assaulted to file lawsuits, as well.  For a long time the Catholic Church and insurance companies opposed the bill, fearing a flood of victims suing for cases based on flimsy evidence would make religious groups and nonprofits more vulnerable to financial losses. 

“While we disagreed on specific elements of this legislation, the Catholic community, the Legislature and the governor sincerely agree on one key position — the need to restore justice for the victims of sexual abuse in New Jersey,” the Archdiocese of Newark said in a statement. “The Catholic community is confident that the Independent Victims Compensation Program established by the five dioceses in New Jersey is a significant step towards restoring justice for those who, as minors, were abused by ministers of the Church. Further, we are committed to the comprehensive healing of those harmed and we will continue our policies aimed at protecting children from abuse.”

New Jersey Sen. Joseph Vitale has been fighting for the legislation for the past 15 years, and was a primary sponsor of the newly passed bill. Last summer, the Pennsylvania attorney general released a detailed report revealing decades of abuse and coverup by the Catholic Church in New Jersey. Vitale said the report prompted renewed efforts to pass the bill, and that many of his colleagues asked to be co-sponsors.

“It’s a big day.” We always talk about finding justice for all the survivors, not just those in the past but those that will need it in the future.”

The statistics are shocking. Sexual violence affects millions of people. Today in America, every 73 seconds, someone is sexually assaulted. Every 9 minutes, that victim is a child. Somehow, only 5 out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison. The new legislation passed in New Jersey is a positive step in our nation’s commitment to protect its citizens. Any organization or institution in which sexual abuse is committed must take responsibility for failing to properly screen potential employees. 

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse in New Jersey. If you or a loved one was sexually abused, raped or sexually molested in New Jersey, contact our law firm at (888) 283-9922 or send an e-mail to sexual abuse lawyer Adam Horowitz at adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com for a free consultation.