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Under landmark legislation recently signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy, New Jersey victims of sexual abuse now have more time to file civil lawsuits against their alleged abusers. The current statute of limitations will be lifted on December 1, and comes after a years-long campaign by sexual assault victims and advocates, who have long said that New Jersey’s two-year statute of limitations had the effect of denying justice to countless victims.

The Catholic Church pushed back against the law claiming they would be exposed to “potentially massive financial liabilities.” Gov. Murphy acknowledged their concerns but stated forcefully that, “I cannot deny victims the ability to seek redress in court for sexual abuse that often leaves trauma lasting a lifetime. I am confident that our judicial system is the right forum to assess these claims fairly and impartially.”

The new statute of limitations changes in New Jersey will,

– Allow child victims to sue up until they turn 55 or within seven years of their first realization that the abuse caused them harm.

– Give Adult victims seven years from the discovery of the abuse to sue.

– Create a “lookback” window that would give a two-year window to victims who were previously barred by the statute of limitations.

– Allow victims to sue any liable institution.

At Saunders & Walker we have long advocated for statute of limitations to be restructured to allow for the unique circumstances that exist in cases involving clergy sexually abusing children. In almost every case children are reluctant or unable to talk about pedophile priests or face their accusers. There are significant and unique barriers that prevent children from reporting what they intuitively know is inappropriate behavior. Fear of the accusing their abuser, the stigma of being abused, and a reluctance to confront the church often keep sexual abuse from being reported. Many victims of pedophile priests are unable to talk about abuse or face their accusers until they are well into adulthood, putting the crime beyond the reach of the law.

By changing their statutes of limitation New Jersey has taken a bold step to ensure that victims of sexual abuse will be given their opportunity for justice. If a priest or another member of a church has sexually abused you, or anybody you know, please contact Saunders & Walker at 1-800-748-7115 to discuss your legal options. All conversations will be kept strictly confidential.



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