New York May Extend Statute Of Limitations On Child Sex Abuse

New York State is considering extending the statute of limitations on reporting child sex abuse and assault. While this might be perceived as a good thing to victims and their families, in the past, some groups have fought against the move, including some religious organizations.

The extension would apply to the timing for reporting or filing lawsuits against alleged sexual molesters. The bill, which was initially introduced in 2006 and reintroduced in February, is before the Assembly and would extend both criminal and civil statues of limitation in the state by five years, explained Business Insurance. This means that child victims of sexual abuse or assault have until they are 28 years of age to report to the police or to file a civil law suit for previous sexual abuse, said Business Insurance. The cut-off currently is age 23 and adults have five years following an alleged attack to file charges. The proposed law passed three Assembly votes since it was first introduced and would suspend the civil statue for a year to enable victims disqualified under the current law to sue individuals or private institutions, said Business Insurance.

Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (Democrat-Queens) authored the bill and is its chief sponsor, having campaigned for the bill’s passage for years prior to the headline-making Penn State and Syracuse university scandals. Those two scandals alone, she said in a recent Albany Times-Union op-ed piece, provide further proof as to why the bill is needed, according to Business Insurance. “I think this is one of those ‘teachable moments’ where other, similarly terrible incidents don’t usually get these same front-page headlines,” Markey wrote. “The one thing all abusers have in common is that they hold a position of influence and trust in the life of a child, and use their power to violate that trust. People who abuse kids are most often family members, family friends or relatives. But they are also coaches, religious leaders, doctors, and youth workers,” she added, reported Business Insurance.

The proposed permanent five-year extension does not include lawsuits against public agencies or employees. Current New York State law says those claims must be filed within 90 days of the incident, said Business Insurance; however, victims in these cases are granted a one-year “late filing” window that enables a judge to grant permission to pursue a case against a municipality or public agency, or any public employee.

Earlier attempts to quash the bill have come from New York’s Senate; Roman Catholic and Orthodox Jewish officials have opposed earlier iterations arguing that they were unjustly aimed at religious institutions, said Business Insurance. In a point-by-point breakdown of the law, Markey refuted the notion that settlements in sexual abuse cases have brought dioceses to the brink of financial ruin and that no institution would be unnecessarily besieged due to the bill’s passage, said Business Insurance. Also, Markey wrote that should an organization be unaware through no fault of its own of an employee or an affiliate’s crimes, “the agency or organization cannot be held liable…. An institution may be held liable only if they knew the predator had a history and did not take appropriate action,” wrote Business Insurance.

Meanwhile, sex abuse scandals have been rocking headlines in recent days. In addition to the Penn State and Syracuse scandals, we’ve recently written about a child sex abuse case in which three former victims filed a lawsuit against Rabbi Stanley Z. Levitt, who argues that because the allegations are decades old they are “inherently unreliable.” Levitt was also charged with molesting three other boys. And, in Brooklyn, NY, 85 alleged child molesters have been arrested in the past three years during an investigation of child sexual abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community under an initiative called Kol Tzedek; Hebrew for “voice of justice.

Montana’s Roman Catholic Helena diocese is facing a lawsuit over alleged priest sexual abuse. Attorneys for 32 plaintiffs filed the lawsuit accusing the Diocese of Helena of hiding sexual abusers. We also wrote that the Delaware-based Oblates of St. Francis de Sales agreed to pay $24 million to end 39 claims by alleged sex-abuse victims. Similar settlements have been reached in Texas, Colorado, and Missouri and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is fighting a half-dozen child sexual abuse lawsuits following the arrest of four current and former priests on molestation charges.

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