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On March 25, the New Jersey Senate voted to extend the time frame sexual abuse victims can file claims against their abusers or institutions. By doing so, New Jersey will join three-quarters of other U.S. states that have amended their statute of limitations since 2002.

The current statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases in New Jersey is two years. Upon the bill’s passing, however, adults who were sexually abused as children will be allowed to file a civil suit until the age of 55 or within seven years of discovering the connection between their lingering emotional harm and past abuse. In addition to this, victims who are barred from filing a suit under current law will be able to pursue their cases between Dec. 1, 2019 and Nov. 20, 2021.

Even though similar statute of limitations proposals have been presented in the N.J. Congress since the 1990’s, it took the increasing number of sexual assault reports against clergy members across the nation to foster real action. In fact, this bill’s approval comes only one month after New Jersey’s five Catholic dioceses released the names of 188 credibly accused priests and deacons who sexually abused children.

While the bill was approved almost unanimously by the state’s Senate, it has already been strongly opposed by leaders of the Catholic Church. For example, the executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, Patrick Brannigan, feels that the Catholic Church has been unfairly criticized and that sexual abuse within the church is a problem of the past. Other church leaders have been vocal in their opposition of the section in the bill, that allows the institution itself (i.e., the Catholic Church) to be sued. In addition, they want to delay the bill’s Dec. 1, 2019 start date until after the church finishes collecting the first round of applications for the newly established priest abuse victim’s compensation fund.

It is important to note that this law is not limited to priest and clergy abuse victims alone. All sexual abuse victims will be covered under this change; providing each of them with the opportunity to hold the responsible parties accountable and receive compensation for the pain and suffering that they have experienced.

If you or a loved one has been a victim of sexual assault, please contact me at 973-844-6222 for a free and confidential evaluation of your case. You can also submit a free legal consultation form online, or email me at jr@djd.law.

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