New Jersey Child Victims Act
Has someone sexually abused you or someone you loved when they were a child in New Jersey? The New Jersey Child Victims Act allows victims to come forward and seek justice against their abuser and the institution that allowed the abuse. Contact our experienced sex abuse lawyers here at Herman Law today to understand how you can file a claim.
What is child sexual abuse?
The New Jersey Child Victims Act went into effect on December 1st, 2019. This New Jersey law opened a two-year period of “revival” in which victims of child abuse may file claims against their abusers even if the statute of limitations is up. This period will close on November 30th, 2021, unless granted an extension. If someone sexually abused you or a loved one as a child in New Jersey, do not hesitate — contact Herman Law immediately to understand your legal rights and whether you can still file a claim.
What is the New Jersey Child Victims Act?
The New Jersey Child Victims Act provides an additional two years for victims of child sex crimes to come forward and sue their abuser(s). It also introduces a new law that extends the statute of limitations in other child sexual abuse cases—victims may now file claims against their abusers until age 55 or within seven years of realizing that abuse occurred. The bill title states that it “extends the statute of limitations in civil actions for sexual abuse claims; expands categories of potential defendants in civil actions; creates a two-year window for parties to bring previously time-barred actions based on sexual abuse.” Even if a criminal court acquitted an abuser, they might still be held accountable in civil court. New Jersey required victims to pursue litigation within two years before these new laws—and only had until age 20 to pursue claims in civil court. This new legislation is crucial for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to heal on their road to recovery. While no one can take away the pain survivors of sexual abuse feel, holding the person and the institution responsible that allowed the abuse to happen is crucial for survivors of childhood sex abuse.
What is the two-year look-back window in the New Jersey Child Victims Act?
The two-year look-back window in the New Jersey Child Victims Act disregards a victim’s age and the time it has been since the alleged abuse occurred. The act’s look-back window halts the statutes of limitation in these types of sex crimes cases until November 30th, 2021. After this date, victims must file a civil claim of child sexual abuse before their victim’s 55th birthday or within seven years of realizing that abuse occurred.
Who supported the New Jersey Child Victims Act?
Democrat Joseph F. Vitale was the state representative who initially brought the bill to the Senate. He is an active member in the Foster and Adoptive Family Services Advisory Committee, the Middlesex County Habitat for Humanity, the Mandated Health Benefits Commission, the Governor’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, and the Staffing and Oversight Review Subcommittee of the Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect.
Vitale’s number one focus as a senator has been providing affordable healthcare. According to his website, his other priorities include:
Expanding civil rights
Preserving government ethics
Early childhood education
Bringing good-paying jobs to New Jersey
Enhancing voting rights
Fighting the drug epidemic
Helping New Jersey seniors
Supporting New Jersey veterans
Protecting the environment
Championing New Jersey businesses
In recent years, other states passed laws like those Vitale brought forth, changing the nature of sex crime reports — at least for some time. Most recently, Governor Cuomo of New York passed the NY Child Victims Act, disregarding the statutes of limitation in child sex abuse cases for one year. California did the same, beginning a three-year revival period on January 1st, 2020. Pennsylvania and Minnesota are currently considering the Child Victims Act, and there is an ongoing national campaign to increase state acceptance of the bill. You can find more information about this campaign here.
Why is the New Jersey Child Victims Act important?
The New Jersey Child Victims Act is vital because it gives victims a voice they never had before. Although there are laws allowing victims to file claims before a certain age, many survivors have either not realized they have experienced abuse or not felt confident enough at a specific time to report the abuse. JD Supra, a leading legal news publication, explains, “The rationale behind all of these new Child Victims Acts is that children are often prevented from disclosing abuse due to the social, psychological and emotional trauma they experience and that they do not disclose the abuse until later in life.” In New Jersey specifically, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys experience some form of sexual abuse before age 18—however, the state reports that 80% of this abuse goes unreported. The New Jersey Child Victims Act supports these victims, allowing them to file claims against abusers who were, in some cases, never held accountable for their actions.
Child Sex Abuse Cases in New Jersey
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal also recently announced the arrest of 31 different individuals charged with child sexual exploitation during the coronavirus pandemic. Officials charged two men in this group with sexual assault. According to ABC7, “The number of cyber tips to the New Jersey Regional Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force about potential threats to children online, including tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), remains high during the ongoing COVID emergency, with 3,324 tips received in the first six months of 2021.”
Within the first minute of the New Jersey revival period, victims filed 46 new cases. Hundreds more flooded courts in the following weeks. Across the country, in states that have passed similar child victim laws, survivors brought about 5,000 claims against the clergy alone.
According to the Child Welfare League of America, in 2015 alone, “there were 9,689 victims of abuse or neglect in New Jersey, a rate of 4.8 per 1,000 children […] Of these children, 79.5% experienced neglect, 15.2% experienced physical abuse, and 8.8% experienced sexual abuse.”
Whom can I hold responsible for my child sex abuse?
How am I able to hold the institution that allowed the abuse responsible?
Institutions such as schools and workplaces must follow negligence laws in sexual abuse cases, or they may be held responsible for any abuse that occurred. They have a duty to protect their patrons, students, employees. Failure to protect constitutes negligence. If an individual or individuals can prove that an institution’s negligence resulted in sexual abuse, they may be held liable. Another theory under the law, respondeat superior, paints a more precise picture: in Latin, respondeat superior means “that the master must answer,” referring to an employer’s responsibility for the actions of their employees. In a broader sense, this applies in other situations under vicarious liability—teachers under a school, clergy under a church, etc.
When do I have to file a criminal case?
When do I have to file a civil claim for child sexual abuse?
The victim must file a civil claim of child sexual abuse before their 55th birthday or seven years from the realization that abuse occurred. However, we are still within New Jersey’s look-back period—if an individual falls outside of these parameters, they may still file civil claims of abuse before November 30th, 2021. After this date, the look-back period ends, and the parameters revert to the general restrictions.
How am I able to hold the institution that allowed the abuse responsible?
New Jersey’s old laws required victims to seek civil litigation within two years—or two years from their 18th birthday, if the abuse occurred during their childhood. Now an individual has seven years, or before their 55th birthday (whichever comes first).
Should I take legal action if I experienced sexual abuse as a child?
If you experienced sexual abuse as a child, you should take legal action. Obtaining justice is a critical part of the healing process, and you may be entitled to additional compensation for the emotional or physical trauma endured. Although many survivors care more about seeking justice than a paycheck, the long-term effects of sexual abuse can last a lifetime—financial support can better enable victims to obtain the help they need. Please do not hesitate to reach out to a child sex abuse lawyer for help during this complicated and arduous process.
How can a child sex abuse lawyer help me?
Herman Law’s experienced and compassionate lawyers can help you if you or a loved one experienced sexual abuse as a child in New Jersey. We specialize in helping victims of sexual abuse and treating them with the respect they deserve while seeking justice for their experiences. Please don’t hesitate.