By Connor C. Dalton, Esquire

New Jersey Survivors of Sexual Abuse Can Now Seek Justice

Before 2019, New Jersey survivors of clerical sex abuse who did not file a lawsuit within two years of their abuse were barred from filing a lawsuit by the “statute of limitations.” Now, following the passage of New Jersey Senate Measure S477, survivors of sexual abuse have the opportunity to seek civil justice and hold perpetrators and their enablers accountable.

Statutes of limitation laws are passed by the legislature with the intent of protecting defendants from the threat of old claims. Once a designated period of time elapses from the time of the incident, the statute of limitations takes effect and bars plaintiffs from filing a lawsuit. Proponents of statute of limitation laws believe without such limitations, plaintiffs could unfairly have the opportunity to sue defendants indefinitely.

Statute of limitation laws are rigid and – normally – absolute. Although the intent of statute of limitation laws seems sound, in practice they overly protect certain defendants. Such is the case with the perpetrators and enablers of child sexual abuse. Perpetrators and enablers of child sexual abuse are adults and unlawfully pressure their child victims into silence. It may take survivors years, even decades, to be able to talk about the abuse. These criminal adults have effectively evaded legal accountability for their actions through statute of limitation laws.

Recently, legislatures in various states have been standing up for survivors of sexual abuse by passing “Look-back” statutes. “Look-back” statutes are new laws passed that extend or suspended the statute of limitations as toward particular types of claims. Typically, these “Look-back” statutes create a window of time where civil lawsuits – that otherwise would be barred by the statute of limitations – can be filed. Since 2018, fifteen states have extended or suspended the statute of limitations.[1] These reforms are meaningful attempts to provide justice when our laws have been overly protective of behavior that demands legal accountability.

The window of time for Survivors of sexual abuse in New Jersey began on December 1, 2019 and will likely continue until December 1, 2021. The Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America, and other powerful organizations will continue their now decades-long battle to avoid responsibility in these cases. If you have questions or are a survivor of sexual abuse in New Jersey, contact Dalton & Associates to speak with our experienced team. Our proven history of successfully representing survivors of sexual abuse shows that we are ready to stand up to these organizations and provide justice to those who have waited too long for it. No longer will the sexual predators who plagued New Jersey communities escape justice simply because of the passage of time.


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