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Were You Abused?

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If you were sexually abused as a child by a priest, deacon or any other member of the Catholic Church, you are not aloneWe are here to help you.  Please fill out our confidential online contact form or call Toll Free 1-866-777-2557 and a New YorkSexual Abuse Lawyer will get back to you within 24 hours to discuss your possible case.   Help is available nationwide.  There is no cost to investigate and there are no legal fees unless you receive financial compensation.  Making the call is sometimes the hardest step, but it is often a necessary step on the road to healing.  Church Sexual Assault Lawyer NY

Reasons to call

  • Hold the church and priests accountable
  • Prevent this from happening to someone else
  • Help with the road to recovery – settlement money can provide financial security for you.  It can also help pay for therapy, rehabilitation, and medical treatment

Please call Toll Free 1-866-777-2557 or fill out our confidential contact form and a lawyer will get back to you within 24 hours to discuss your case.  New York Church Sexual Assault Lawyer

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Church Sexual Assault Lawyer New York

Breaking News: NY Diocese Under Investigation for Sexual Abuse of Children

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood has launched an investigation into the sexual abuse of children and the coverup by the Catholic Church. She sent subpoenas to each of the eight dioceses of the Catholic Church that are spread throughout the state. Her intent is to have the civil investigation determine if these institutions have covered up any allegations of priests or other clergy sexually abusing children. Her inquiry comes just weeks after the Pennsylvania AG’s office released a shocking grand jury report of widespread abuse and coverup of thousands of abuses. In some cases, the coverup went all the way up to the Vatican. More than 300 clergy abused over 1,000 children in the past 40 years.

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Numerous states have started their own investigations. Attorneys general of Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, and New Mexico have all read the grand jury report and are taking action in their own state. In most cases, the archdioceses are agreeing to help with the investigation, although there is some push back by limited dioceses and bishops. Some are disagreeing with how far back the records requests are going, stating that any dead priests shouldn’t have to have their records released as it does no good.

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A Very Short Statute of Limitations

AG Underwood said that her office wants to work with district attorney’s throughout her state to help prosecute all those guilty of criminal action that hasn’t met the statute of limitations. The State of New York has set up a hotline for victims or those knowledgeable about abuse to call and make a report. Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for the Archdiocese, has said all dioceses will comply with the requests for information. Some have stated they are eager to help and one archdiocese requested their records be reviewed by authorities even before the subpoenas were sent out.

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It’s likely many victims in New York won’t be able to file charges even if the proof is there and the AG uncovers abuses. New York has strict rules regarding statute of limitations and has some of the strictest laws in the country when dealing with victims trying to press criminal charges or sue. Advocates for the victims are urging lawmakers to change the statute of limitations in New York to allow victims of the clergy’s abuse to be able to pursue litigation, as other states are talking about doing.

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Victims of the New York Statute of Limitations on Child Sexual Abuse

In the state of New York, victims of childhood sexual abuse only have until the age of 23 to come forward with filing a criminal or civil lawsuit against their abuser. This represents one of the most restrictive statutes of limitations in the country, and despite nationwide progress in reforming these outdated laws, New York has not yet taken steps to permanently modify the protection given to adult survivors of sexual abuse.

There are many reasons why this law does more to support sexual abuse offenders than the child abuse victims. Primarily, it has been shown with substantial research and statistics that most child sexual abuse victims do not come forward to disclose the abuse until well into adulthood—in many cases, not until their 30s to 50s. Additionally, there are many victims that never disclose the abuse, and restricted statutes of limitations allow for silencing of these victims by not providing them with the hope of justice that they deserve with coming forward.

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With the outdated laws governing the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse in New York, there are three distinct groups of victims created, including: 

• Adult Survivors: Adult survivors older than age 23 are the most obvious victims of these restrictive laws. Regardless of the severity of the abuse they endured or the lifelong effects that they have faced, the majority are beyond the small window of opportunity for bringing their abusers to justice.

• Currently Abused Children: Although children who are currently experiencing sexual abuse are within the statute of limitations, statistics favor the reality that many of these victims will not come forward until they are older adults. This puts them immediately at a disadvantage for getting out of the situation and seeing their abusers held accountable.

• New York Public: The general New York public is also a victim of these outdated child sexual abuse laws. The public of the state of New York is less aware of current child predators than nearly any other state, and despite provisions such as Megan’s Law, an overwhelming percentage of offenders are never convicted and added to the sexual abuse registry due to the limitations of the law.

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The only way to help eliminate the countless victims of outdated laws governing child sexual abuse is through state-wide legislative reform. The Child Victims Act, a law that focused on dramatically extending the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse, was twice introduced to the New York government. Unfortunately, Republican opposition and a strong outcry from the Catholic dioceses effectively killed this bill in the Senate in 2008 and 2017. 

Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program for Diocese of Brooklyn
The state of New York has some of the strictest law in the nation when it comes to the statute of limitations for filing a suit against an offender of child sexual abuse. Twice, state government representatives have introduced bills known as the Child Victims Act that would allow for a greatly increased statute of limitations. Unfortunately, this law was struck down by the Senate in 2008 and again in June of 2017.

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The Catholic church played a big role in the opposition of the 2017 Child Victims Act legislation. If the law had passed, there would have been a one-year window where victims could come forward to file claims, regardless of when the abuse took place. The Church was concerned about the impact of this legislation, and it fought to prevent this law from moving forward.

After the NY Child Victims Act failed in the state Senate, the Diocese of Brooklyn instituted a program on June 22, 2017 called the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) for the Diocese of Brooklyn. This program is administrated by Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille S. Biros and is designed to provide victims of child sexual abuse within the Diocese compensation for the abuse that the suffered.

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There two distinct phases of the IRCP:

• Phase 1: The compensation for this phase is limited to those who have previously sent in a compliant of child sexual abuse to the Diocese of Brooklyn.

• Phase 2: Individuals who have not previously complained of child sexual abuse can register a compliant with the Diocese for review.

Under the IRCP, Feinberg and Biros have sole discretion in the awards given to victims of child sexual abuse within the Diocese. The Diocese of Brooklyn is required to pay whatever compensation is deemed appropriate in every individual case, and the Church has stated that they will be taking out a loan for compensation—not using donations or fundraising for the payment of the settlements.

There are mixed feeling regarding the implementation of the IRCP. While some victims that had previously complained about sexual abuse within the Diocese of Brooklyn feel as though the Church is finally being held accountable, there are conditions to the settlement. Once a victim receives compensation through the program, they are waiving their right to seek legal action against any party related to the sexual abuse. Other organizations, including a victims advocacy group called SNAP, have also come forward with criticism of the program saying that it does not address the systemic problem of allowing abuse to continue throughout the religious organization. 

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Why is the New York Statute of Limitations for Sexual Abuse too Short?

Unlike many states across the nation that have passed laws reforming their statute of limitations for child sexual abuse, New York continues to rank at the bottom of the list for laws that protect victims of abuse. The current statute of limitations for New York state that an individual who was sexually abused as a child must bring a suit against the offender by the time that they are 23 years of age. At this young age, many victims may still be directly tied to their abusers, either through living arrangements or financial dependency. This creates an environment that does more to protect those who are abusing children than the victims themselves, leading to a call for reform from many New York representatives and advocacy groups.

The problem with the current statute of limitations in New York is the limited window that victims have to disassociate from their abusers, disclose the abuse, and be mentally prepared to file criminal charges or a civil lawsuit. For many of these victims, the traumatic experience of abuse can only be dealt with once they are well into adulthood, and the vast majority of victims do not even disclose the abuse until years past the cut-off of 23 years old.

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There are many reasons that victims of childhood sexual abuse may wait to disclose the abuse or take legal action against their abusers, including:

• Threats of violence from the offender
• Fear over not being believed
• Worries about how the abuse claims will affect those they love
• Financial dependency on their abuser, particularly when the abuser is family
• Lack of resources in receiving treatment and support for abuse
• Confusion and guilt over carrying blame for the abuse
• Lack of support from loved ones if abuse was previously disclosed
• Mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and low self-worth

Coming to terms with the abuse that they endured and being in a healthy mental place to pursue their abuser through legal means takes time for the victim. Typically, survivors only begin the healing process by seeking psychotherapy treatment and other support once they are years into adulthood. Even then, it is still a process for the victim to come to terms with their experience and make the decision to come forward, leaving many survivors without the ability to pursue justice due to the archaic statute of limitations.

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While data and research consistently shows the problems associated with a short statute of limitations for child sexual abuse, New York lags behind in passing legislation to remedy the problem. For example, the Child Victims Act was again killed in the Senate in 2017, taking away hope from thousands of survivors that they would have the opportunity to seek justice for the abuse committed against them. 

Every state has its own procedure for reporting sexual abuse of a child. The state of New York has categories of professionals who are mandated reporters, meaning that they are obligated by law to report child sexual abuse to the New York State Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment (SCR). However, mandated reporters are only required to inform this organization of sexual abuse that is being perpetrated by a parent.

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Limitations of Child Victims Act of New York
The awareness and research surrounding child sexual abuse has increased greatly in recent years, leading to reform in many states of outdated statutes of limitations for victims to seek justice for the abuse. New York remains at the bottom of the list when it comes to states that have made progressive, forward movement towards offering support to child sexual abuse victims, and the Child Victims Act was an attempt to pass legislation to change these outdated laws.

If the Child Victims Act had passed, victims could file a civil suit against their abuser until age 50, as well as a criminal law suit until age 28. Additionally, the law contained a provision that would eliminate the statute of limitations for a period of one year so all victims had the opportunity to pursue justice.

Unfortunately, this legislation failed twice within the state Senate, and there were several limitations of the law cited that contributed to its failure, including: 

• Frivolous Law Suits: Opponents of this legislation have stated that the extended statute of limitations would open the door for the introduction of frivolous lawsuits. However, this has not become a problem in other states that have enacted a version of the Child Victims Act, and statistics show that a very small percentage of child sexual abuse cases are deemed frivolous.

• One-Year Window: The main issue that opposition to this legislation has is the one-year window in which victims of any age can file a lawsuit. Strongly opposed by the Catholic Church, high-level religious members have stated that this provision of the law would “bankrupt” their organizations.

• Exempting Public Institutions: Protections for public vs. private organizations have long been one of the limitations of the Child Victims Act. While the most recent bill would have eliminated the protections from lawsuits for private organizations, those who oppose the bill believe this is unfair as public institutions would still have this protection.

• Support: Support for the bill has been substantial in many ways, but the bill was limited in its ability to gain support from key organizations, including Boy Scouts of America and the Catholic Church. These organizations lobbied against the bill and were vocal in their opposition to the passing of the legislation, which played a key role in the bill’s failure.

Lawmakers who pushed for the passing of the Child Victims Act have not been deterred after its most recent failure in 2017, and many have publicly committed to reintroducing the bill in the future. However, it is likely that several adjustments and compromises will need to be made in order to garner the support needed in the Senate to pass this bill into law.  

New York Church Sexual Assault Lawyer