As discussed in a previous blog post, New York survivors of childhood sexual abuse will have an extended deadline - changed from age 23 to age 55 - to bring civil lawsuits against both the perpetrator and the organizations that harbored them. The law also opens a one-time, one-year window for those whose claims would otherwise be time-barred.
While the new act applies to all organizations, not just the Catholic Church, those familiar with the church sex scandal believe that this new act – along with a confluence of events listed below - could mean that the bulk of cases taking advantage of the one-year window will be focused on the Catholic Church.
- Investigators have been able to access numerous pages of never-before-seen documents that may bring to light more abusers and cover-ups – and could also encourage other victims to come forward.
- The number of victims identified is in the hundreds, and will likely continue to grow.
- In light of today’s #MeToo social media movement, more victims may be empowered to come forward now than ever before.
- The Diocese of Rochester recently announced that its voluntary reconciliation and compensation program – created to settle claims of childhood sex abuse while avoiding costly litigation – is ending, meaning an increasing number of cases going to court.
- While the average case was settled for approximately $180,000 through the program mentioned above, plaintiffs may seek much higher compensation in court. (One of the first cases filed under the new law is seeking $300 million for a single victim.)
Anyone who was sexually abused as a child – regardless of who the perpetrator was, or what institution was involved or how long ago the abuse took place – can take advantage of this one-time, one-year window. Act now, because the clock is ticking. Once time runs out, the path to justice will be permanently closed for time-barred claims.