Legislation Would Alter Child Sex Abuse Civil Cases [AUDIO]
Today, the New Jersey Senate is scheduled to vote on a bill that would completely remove the two-year statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse to file a civil suit against their molester or the religious, charitable or educational organization that may have enabled the abuse.
One of the measure's sponsors calls the two-year limit, "ridiculous" and "arbitrary."
State Senator Joe Vitale's bill would remove the statute of limitations on civil child sex abuse cases, expand who is potentially liable in these actions and provide that public entities would be liable. Under current law, a victim of child sexual abuse has two years from the time they reach adulthood or two years from the time they realize that they were sexually abused as a child to file a civil suit against their alleged abuser. The legislation would completely remove this statute of limitation both retroactively and in future cases.
"Expanding the statute of limitations on sexual abuse is imperative to providing justice for the victims of these heinous crimes," says Vitale. "The scars of sexual abuse do not heal easily, but hopefully, with time, compassion, counseling and a measure of justice, many of the victims will be able to get on with their lives. While a statute of limitations may make sense in certain civil cases, when it comes to the difficulty that victims endure to speak out about and seek justice for sexual abuse, they should be given a little more leeway. This bill makes sure that sexual abuse victims receive the time and patience needed for them to face their abusers in court."
The bill would also amend current law to make religious, charitable or educational organizations liable for sexual abuse, sexual assault or any crimes of the sexual nature. Currently, trustees, directors, officers, employees, agents, servants and volunteers of organizations are liable for sexual assault committed under their watch, but this legislation would expand this to the organizations themselves.
Vitale says, "This legislation is about making organizations responsible in their hiring and supervisory practices. If an organization has nothing to hide and has acted appropriately in these situations, they will have nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, there are organizations who must share in the responsibility of abuse since they did not properly respond to child sexual abuse allegations. These organizations must be held accountable."
New Jersey lifted the statute of limitations for criminal charges on child sexual abuse in 1996. In 2006, legislation sponsored by Senator Vitale removed civil immunity from charitable organizations that enabled sexual molestation of minors.
Alaska, Delaware, Florida and Maine have already abolished the statute of limitations for some if not all sexual abuse cases against minors. Many other states have extended the statute of limitations in these cases.