Christopher Cellante is an attorney with Hach & Rose, LLP. He represents clients who were injured catastrophically.
What inspired you to become an attorney?
My uncle, Angel Perez, was a criminal defense attorney in the Bronx. Though he has passed away, he continues to inspire me in all aspects of my work, including fierce advocacy at trial.
What practice areas do you focus on?
I focus on motor vehicle accidents, premises liability, construction accidents, and wrongful death. My clients typically have sustained serious, catastrophic injuries, and I’m honored to help these victims.
Tell us about your most interesting or significant case.
One case that I found particularly interesting involved an individual who had stolen an NYPD police cruiser and taken it for a high-speed joyride, resulting in a significant collision and severe injuries. Another interesting case involved an assault committed by a police horse resulting in an amputation. Those factual scenarios presented unique legal issues.
Additionally, litigating cases involving traumatic brain injury (TBI) is fascinating to me. Many injuries can have a significant impact on a victim’s life, but the impact of a TBI is far reaching. Also, much of the damages and limitations stemming from TBI are difficult to prove due to the cognitive and subjective nature of the injury. I know my clients need support after their TBI, and I am determined to obtain the compensation they deserve for their loss of function and cognitive deficits.
What are you most proud of, professionally or personally?
Professionally, I am most proud of working as a trial attorney on high exposure cases and following in the footsteps of my trial attorney uncle, Angel Perez. I was also honored to receive the Division Chief Award from the City of New York for my advocacy while working as an Assistant Corporation Counsel on personal injury matters. Personally, I’m proud of my family and how close we are. I have a very tight-knit and supportive family who all live in New York. My parents are incredible, their work ethic is inspiring, and I’m grateful that they encouraged me all through law school.
Do you have any hidden talents, hobbies, or a fun fact?
I love to fish! Typically, this involves deep sea fishing off the coast of Florida for king fish, trigger fish, and grouper. I have also seen every James Bond movie.
What is your favorite quote?
“Winning is not a sometime thing, it is an all the time thing. You don’t do things right once in a while…you do them right all the time.” – Vince Lombardi
The one-year “lookback window” that was part of the 2019 New York Child Victim’s Act is now in our rearview mirror, having expired at midnight, August 14, 2021, following Gov. Cuomo’s one-year extension due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
New York survivors of child sex abuse took the opportunity the law provided them to file over 9,000 lawsuits against their perpetrators or against organizations who employed or otherwise had oversight over their perpetrators.
Across Society’s Spectrum
The lawsuits reflected the unfortunate broad spectrum of child sex abusers, from the high-profile cases involving the Boy Scouts of America and the Catholic Church to alleged abuse by a prince. These are important cases, and particularly with institutions and organizations where large groups of children gather, bringing the perpetrators to justice and holding them and the organizations accountable is important.
But even as the heightened awareness increases the resolve of New York parents to be even more vigilant about sending their children to organized events, New Yorkers can’t let these high-profile newsmakers dim the light that should be shining on other victims and their perpetrators. The truth is, the younger a child is, the more likely their sexual abuser is a family member. Many perpetrators are very good at manipulating both the child and the parents and can even become trusted family friends.
The child sex abuse statistics are sobering and unacceptable. One in every three girls experiences sexual abuse before they are 18. For boys, the number is one in every five. In New York, in particular, we have a lot of work to do; while the 2019 report from New York’s Kids’ Well-being Indicators Clearinghouse (NYKWIC) counts all types of abuse in its reporting, it’s worth noting that our state’s rate of child abuse is nearly double that of the United States as a whole.
Know the Signs
As New Yorkers, we must work collectively to help ensure that our children’s childhoods aren’t being cruelly taken from them. One way to do that is to educate ourselves on the signs of child sexual abuse so that we can help our children and stop the abuse. Remember, very young children are many times not even able to discern what is happening to them or able to vocalize it, so it’s up to parents and caregivers to be observant.
Children who experience sexual abuse may display physical, emotional, and behavioral signs. Physical signs could include a urinary tract infection or blood on undergarments or bedding. While you should be watchful for any signs of trauma such as bruising, seek immediate help if you notice any in the genital area or if they seem to suddenly have problems walking or sitting.
They may also complain of other physical symptoms, like headaches or stomach aches, that seem to happen suddenly or more frequently, and that may coincide with specific activities, like going to daycare, sports practice, or church.
Behavioral and emotional signs may include:
- Sudden or heightened anxiety, depression, or aggression
- Sudden fear of being left alone or not wanting to be with specific individuals
- Regressing into certain behaviors, such as sucking their thumb, wetting the bed, or rocking
- Age-inappropriate talk about sex or acting sexual
- Having low self-esteem or a lack of confidence
- Sudden shyness about removing clothing or bathing and showering
- Losing interest in friends and activities that they had always looked forward to
In general, take notice of any sudden change in behavior and habits and any unexplained bruises and cuts, which may also indicate that they are trying to physically harm themselves.
It’s also important that you speak to your children, even when they are very young (experts say as early as three years of age), about inappropriate touching and that they can and should say no without fear of getting in trouble. Opening up this dialogue early, and letting them know there are no secrets from you, can increase the chances of them reporting any incidences to you. It also provides them with the words to say for something they may not be able to explain without this early dialogue with you.
Do Your Homework
It’s important to get references for any individual or facility responsible for your child’s care. For individuals that you employ, you can get a criminal history search from the New York State Office of Court Administration (OCA) for just $95. If your child goes to daycare, ask the administrator what background checks they perform on their staff.
What’s Your Recourse?
The attorneys at Hach & Rose, LLP are parents, too, and nothing keeps us awake at night as much as sex abuse crimes against a child. And that’s what sexual abuse is: a crime. While it is up to the New York District Attorney’s office to pursue criminal charges against child sex abusers, our experienced New York child sex abuse legal team can help you pursue justice and accountability through a civil lawsuit.
A civil lawsuit will not send the child sex abuser to jail. That is the job of the state’s criminal justice system. However, if successful, a civil suit provides another avenue to accountability. What an experienced New York child sex abuse attorney will seek is financial compensation to help your child get the help they need with any physical or emotional issues.
If the perpetrator is an individual with limited or zero financial resources, the legal team at Hach & Rose, LLP will examine the likelihood of success of a lawsuit filed against any other defendants, such as the perpetrator’s employer, or an organization that allowed the perpetrator to volunteer there so they could be around children. Once we have determined any probable liability and whether there are financial assets, we may be able to negotiate a settlement or seek to go to trial.
Let’s Do This Together
New York’s Child Victim Act and the “lookback window” were important steps in highlighting the tragedies that child sex abuse imposes on our children for years, even decades. If you know or suspect your child was sexually abused, give us a call today at (212) 779-0057, or set up a free consultation through our website.
Our compassionate and discreet legal team will treat your situation with the sensitivity it deserves, and if we pursue it with you, it will be with the passion and energy that New York’s children deserve – whether they make the news or not.
For the most part, their parents placed them in environments they believed to be safe. Churches. Synagogues. Schools. Boy Scouts.
And up until midnight on August 14, 2021, more than 9,000 of them filed civil lawsuits against New York institutions, organizations, and individuals, getting their complaints filed before the New York Child Victims Act “lookback window” for civil suits closed.
Child Sex Abuse Trauma Often Lingers for Decades
Many of the victims filing the suits are now in their 60s and 70s, revealing the amount of sexual abuse – or what is likely a small portion of it – that took place against our fellow New Yorkers years ago, decades even, in an era where children were watching black and white television screens depict idyllic scenes from small-town Americana, where children were safe, and adults protected them.
Except they weren’t safe or protected.
In cases where the perpetrators are now deceased, their victims are seeking recourse against the New York institutions who hired them and, in many cases, protected them. You might think that now, as adults, it would be an easy process for the victims. It’s not.
According to Child USA, the average age the child sex abuse victims disclose their abuse is, in fact, not as an adult, or a teenager, or even a young adult. It’s at age 52. In the years following the child sex abuse, many of these victims endure other problems they would not have had were it not for the abuse, such as depression, drug and alcohol abuse, self-harm, and suicidal tendencies.
Others did what they were supposed to do years ago when the abuse happened. They told a trusted New Yorker. Nothing happened.
It takes great courage for someone to come forward, no matter how long ago the child sex abuse happened, and demand justice.
Delayed disclosure in child sex abuse survivors is not about self-gain. It’s about self-preservation.
What the Child Victims Act “Lookback Window” Allowed, and What Victims Can Still Pursue
In January 2019, the New York State Legislature passed the Child Victims Act that eliminated the previous statute of limitations – a period of time that victims can file a lawsuit after an alleged incident – for filing criminal charges and civil lawsuits against accused sexual abusers and if appropriate, public and private institutions.
Now, any New York child sex abuse survivor can file a civil lawsuit seeking damages until they are 55 years old. Filing a civil suit like this requires the help of an experienced New York child sex abuse attorney. The New York District Attorney’s office cannot file a civil suit on your behalf.
This portion of the law is not subject to the “lookback window” expiration. In other words, if you are a New York child sex abuse survivor aged 55 or younger, you can still file a civil lawsuit against your abuser or an institution after August 14, 2021. Your attorney does not need to file a Notice of Claim.
The “lookback window,” which initially was in effect for one year but was extended to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, removed the child sexual abuse survivor age limit completely during this temporary lookback period. It also allowed those victims who tried to file a suit previously but waited too long an opportunity to refile and extended the same opportunity to those who had their cases dismissed because their attorney failed to file a Notice of Claim. This applies whether the civil suit is against an individual or a public or private institution.
For a criminal case, the New York Child Victims Act allows the New York District Attorney’s office to file felony criminal charges on your behalf until you turn 28 years of age and seek criminal misdemeanor charges until you turn 25. Since this is a criminal matter between the accused child sex abuser and the state of New York, you do not need to have your own attorney like you do in a civil lawsuit. However, it’s a good idea to consult with an experienced New York child sex abuse attorney to evaluate your chances of a successful civil lawsuit. They may want to closely follow the criminal proceedings as part of that evaluation while they look out for your best interests.
One important exception is this. If the sexual abuse occurred when you were younger than 11, there is no statute of limitations in New York for trying to bring criminal charges against the alleged child sexual abuser.
What Can You Do if You Know a Child Sex Abuse Survivor, Regardless of Age?
Odds are you have people in your circle of family and friends who suffered child sexual abuse. Research indicates that one out of four girls and one out of six boys are likely to experience sexual abuse as a child or before they turn 18.
Educating children about appropriate and inappropriate behavior by others is important. It will also help them be more comfortable about talking to adults about any uncomfortable experiences they have. That can be a first important step to discovering a New York child sex abuser or potential abuser before they harm other children.
If an adult confesses to you about sexual abuse that occurred as a child, it’s important that you listen and be supportive. If they tell you who the abuser is, as hard as it may be, you need to keep that information confidential. Encourage counseling with someone experienced in delayed child sexual abuse disclosure. They will know how and when to discuss possible reporting of the child sex abuse crime to the proper New York authorities or pursuing a civil case.
Finally, be an advocate for laws that continue to allow for delayed disclosure for New York victims of child sexual abuse. At Hach & Rose, LLP, we don’t believe in closing the windows of justice on this type of horrific crime against our most innocent New Yorkers.
Getting Help with a New York Child Sex Abuse Case
The worse type of theft is a stolen childhood. That’s exactly what New York child sex abusers do, and at Hach & Rose, LLP, we want to help child sex abuse victims in their pursuit of accountability and justice and help them find the closure they deserve. Our child sex abuse consultations are discreet, and they are free. Book today through our website, or give us a call today at (212) 779-0057.
The Buffalo Diocese of the Catholic Church has seen a wave of new sexual abuse allegations in the past few months as a result of the Child Victims Act, which allows victims of sex abuse to file complaints or charges against their alleged abusers long after the statute of limitations on the crime has passed.
In early June, three priests were placed on administrative leave by Bishop Michael Fisher after his office discovered a publicly filed complaint alleging the three priests coerced underage students to perform sex acts in the 90s, and on July 12th, a fourth priest was placed on administrative leave by the bishop after allegations surfaced that he abused a child at his church in the 80s.
The first complaint, filed anonymously in early June, alleges that the three priests coerced underage children to perform sex acts in the late 90s. The plaintiff, now a 35-year-old man from Erie County, was a student at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart School at the time and states that although the priests never touched him, they did coerce him to have sex with underage girls and believes they may have filmed the interactions. He believes the recordings still exist and may have been distributed as child pornography.
All three priests have denied any wrongdoing. One was still actively pastoring at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church in Orchard Park, the second was retired but still active in the parish, and the third was pastor at SS. Peter and Paul Church in Williamsburg.
The complaint was not served to the diocese but rather was discovered by Bishop Fisher’s office while searching through a list of publicly filed complaints. According to Fisher’s office, the priests were placed on administrative leave immediately pending an investigation by the diocese’s Independent Review Board, and the Erie County District Attorney’s Office was notified.
The diocese reached out to the plaintiff’s lawyer to see if his client will assist in their investigation of the allegations of abuse and are awaiting a reply.
“We appreciate the diocese addressing these priests and doing the right thing, but at the same time, there is a trust factor,” said Paul K. Barr, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiff.
According to the filed complaint, the abuse started in 1994 and continued through 1998. Barr provided additional details about the allegations to The Buffalo News.
Barr said, “What happened was, he was about twelve years old and he’s in confessional and the priest shows him pornography. The priest asked him if he liked it. It was an adult woman and it kind of grossed him out.”
Barr went on to describe more of the encounter. “The priest asked, ‘What do you like?’ and he said ‘Girls my age.’ The priest said, ‘Like who?’”
A few weeks after this encounter, the plaintiff was summoned to the priest’s office and found the girl he had mentioned waiting there with the priest. It was then that the abuse started. Barr said the priest described the ‘mechanics’ of how sex works and left the room. Initially, there was only kissing and petting, but the encounters eventually led to intercourse between the plaintiff and several underage girls.
Although there is no physical evidence, Barr’s client believes the encounters were recorded. “He never saw the camera, but we strongly suspect it was filmed. The plaintiff has explained that the priests had a device in their hands and would press a button, and my client would hear a clicking sound,” Barr said.
The plaintiff did not realize until he was an adult that the clicking sound likely indicated the recording of the encounters.
“He believes these incidents occurred 12 to 15 times,” Barr said. According to the lawsuit, over the four-year period from 1994 to 1998, the three priests all became involved in planning and orchestrating the abuse.
The second complaint, filed only a few weeks later, alleges sexual abuse at the hands of another priest in Buffalo in the 80s, this time at the parish of St. Matthew. As in the previous case, the priest was placed on administrative leave pending a full investigation and decision by the diocese’s Independent Review Board.
As before, this lawsuit was discovered by a search of publicly filed complaints and was not served upon the diocese.
The accused 88-year-old priest denies any wrongdoing. He is retired but still active in the parish ministry. The victim is not assisting in the investigation.
“Bishop Fisher wishes to emphasize that the decision to restrict [the accused]’s priestly faculties at this time is in no way intended to indicate his guilt or is it a determination about the truth or falsity of the complaints,” according to a statement from the Diocese of Buffalo.
The Effects of the Child Victims Act
Since its passage in 2019, the Child Victims Act has brought to light staggering allegations of institutionalized sexual abuse that have rocked New York’s private and public institutions to their core.
The law has directly led to over 6,000 complaints and lawsuits alleging abuse at the hands of individuals and institutions, such as Boy Scouts of America, USA Gymnastics, and the Catholic Church. Although some suits name individuals, 97% of suits filed are against institutions that allowed abuse to go on unhindered, and in some cases, actually assisted in it.
The Boy Scouts of America filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2020 as it faced hundreds of lawsuits from abuse victims. Four of New York’s Catholic dioceses: Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, and Long Island’s Rockville Center, have also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which allows them to ease the burden of litigation by addressing abuse claimants as a single class.
Get Justice for Your Sex Abuse Case
If you or someone you love has suffered abuse at the hands of someone charged with their care, don’t wait any longer. The Look-Back provision of the Child Victims Act expires in August of 2021, so call the New York sexual abuse attorneys of Hach & Rose, LLP today for a free and confidential consultation. Let us put our years of experience to work for you. Call (212) 779-0057 today.
On the surface, the Boy Scouts of America seemed like an outstanding youth program that focused on teaching young boys and adolescents diverse skills and developing their work ethic to achieve their goals and dreams. Unfortunately, this organization is now facing allegations that instead of protecting children and helping them reach their full potential, some scout leaders were systematically abusing children, causing them unspeakable pain and trauma.
However, the problem for many young boys and their parents is that these allegations are nothing new. News reports suggest that claims of abuse date back to 1905. The number of cases climbed between the 1960s and 1990s, with more than 2,839 reports of alleged abuse in 1970 alone.
Sex abuse allegations against the organization go back decades, and yet, most people have only recently become aware of the true scope of the problem. Why? In part because new laws have been passed that aim to give silent sex abuse victims their right to speak up and have their day in court.
The Child Victims Act
In 2020, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation dubbed the Child Victims Act. This monumental piece of legislation opened up the path to justice for child sex abuse survivors to pursue legal action against the perpetrators of sexual misconduct and hold them accountable for their actions. The act itself increased the amount of time that victims have to pursue a lawsuit against the alleged perpetrators of child sex crimes in New York. It also allows victims of sex crimes to seek civil remedies for their abuse at any time, as long as they pursue legal action before they reach the age of 55.
The act was passed in 2019 and then was extended, partially because of the toll the COVID-19 epidemic was taking on the state of New York. Courts were closed, and the public health emergency meant that while the statute of limitations clock was ticking, abuse victims could not pursue legal action or move their cases forward in any meaningful way. The Child Victims Abuse Act gave those survivors the extra time they needed to pursue legal action without worrying that the COVID-19 pandemic would slow their progress down in their path towards justice.
How the Act Spurred Renewed Interest in Justice
In the years and months leading up to the signing of the new legislation, the Boy Scouts of American had been embroiled with sex abuse allegations and costly lawsuits over their handling of sex abuse claims. By 2018 the organization’s insurance companies started refusing to pay out damages associated with the claims. The financial strain was too much, and by February of 2020, Boy Scouts of America (BSA) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Delaware. Under the Chapter 11 filing, the organization would be forced to reorganize and set up a victim’s compensation fund. Victims were offered one last opportunity to file an abuse claim against the organization. These final filings were given a November 16, 2020, deadline. News reports indicate that before the November 16 deadline, at least 92,700 people had filed sex abuse claims against the organization.
As part of their Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, BSA would establish a victim’s compensation fund that the organization claimed would provide “equitable compensation to all victims,” but to some sexual abuse survivors, this fund seems to be a maneuver that allows the organization to skirt the justice process by not allowing victims their day in court.
By filing for bankruptcy, BSA can put all their previous lawsuits on hold as the process plays out. While the bankruptcy proceedings impact tens of thousands of potential victims, the new extended statute of limitation laws enacted by states like New York and California are keeping a window of opportunity open to abuse survivors.
The Child Victims Act allows survivors of sexual abuse to pursue legal actions against local Boy Scout councils and chapters, even though the organization as a whole is in the process of filing for bankruptcy. This gives victims a chance to pursue some measure of justice for the atrocities that they may have endured at the hands of BSA’s leaders and mentors. For victims in New York, the BSA bankruptcy filing doesn’t have to mean giving up on their chance at holding the Boy Scouts organization accountable for the actions, or lack thereof, of its staff members and leadership.
The COVID-19 shut-down may have been the catalyst, but the cases that are coming to light in the aftermath of the Child Victims Act demonstrate that this piece of legislation may have been overdue. Sexual abuse is traumatic and devastating, and there is no timetable for healing. Coming forward with sexual abuse allegations is difficult and painful, often bringing up horrific childhood memories that a victim may have spent years trying to bury. It wasn’t that long ago that people took to heart the adage “a child should be seen and not heard.” Children deserve to be heard, and abused children deserve justice, even if they are currently adults.
It takes courage to confront the past. The law now allows abuse victims to share their stories. It also allows victims to use the legal system to gain some sense of justice and hold the perpetrator accountable for their actions.
Victims of Abuse Still Have Time to File a Claim
The Child Victims Act timetable has been extended again. Victims now have until August 14, 2021, to file a legal claim. If you suffered sexual abuse as a child or if your child has been the victim of abuse, you can still file a lawsuit. It may be difficult to come forward with abuse allegations, but there are people ready and willing to listen to your story and help you fight back.
At Hach & Rose, LLP, we have compassionate attorneys standing by, ready to listen to you. Our attorneys can be a supportive shoulder to lean on and can use their legal experience to pursue justice for you and your family. You don’t have to remain silent, quietly suffering the burden of your situation. You can come forward to pursue the justice and compensation you deserve.
If you feel ready to talk, we stand ready to listen. Contact an experienced sexual abuse attorney with Hach & Rose, LLP today at (212) 779-0057 for more information about how we may be able to help you pursue legal action under New York’s Child Victims Act.
In 2019, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a monumental piece of legislation called the Child Victims Act. It was a bill conceived out of pain, suffering, and heartache and considered by some to be a long-overdue piece of legislation. The measure gives child survivors of sexual abuse a new pathway to seek justice and compensation for their trauma.
The overriding goal of the bill was to allow certain time-barred cases a one-year period in which to file a lawsuit. This means that if the statute of limitations has expired on a sexual abuse case, today, there may still be hope that the victim can file a lawsuit to hold the perpetrator accountable. The heart of the legislation also includes provisions that:
- Allow sexual abuse victims to file a civil lawsuit at any time, as long as they do so before they reach the age of 55.
- Increase or extend the statute of limitations for which an alleged perpetrator of sexual abuse may be held accountable for their crimes.
- Open up the opportunity for certain previously time-barred claims against public or private institutions to be taken to court for civil action.
The passage of this piece of legislation has resulted in a flood of new sexual abuse cases being filed in courts across the state of New York. Both small and large, these cases include not only individual alleged sexual predators, but also major organizations accused of sexual abuse, such as the Boy Scouts of America and the Catholic Church. Claims have also been filed relating to foster care abuse and sexual abuse at New York boarding schools.
By the end of 2020, news reports indicate that almost 600 sexual abuse lawsuits had been filed against the Catholic Church of Brooklyn due to the passage of the Child Victims Act. In other areas of the state, more than 3,797 new claims had been filed because of the Child Victims Act.
More claims are expected to be filed, especially due to the success of the bill and the lingering impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on slowing down the court system. Governor Cuomo has extended the amount of time that victims have to file claims under the Child Victims Act, now giving survivors until August 14th, 2021, to file a legal claim.
The Impact is Big
It is safe to say that at this point, the Child Victims Act is having a major impact on the New York legal system and is giving childhood victims of sexual abuse a voice and a new outlet for seeking justice. Too often, child victims are silenced by fear, shame, and by the fact that, as children, their credibility is often questioned. Their voices are not always heard or believed, but the Child Victims Act doesn’t shut the door to justice on them. The impact the act has had on the lives of child sexual abuse survivors has been so enormous that it can’t accurately be measured by those whose lives have been changed by it.
It is no wonder that with the success of the Child Victims Act, other survivors are now coming forward wanting their day in court as well. The Child Victims Act is causing a ripple effect, extending to other groups and communities who want to see justice done for themselves and those close to them. People who have been sexually abused as adults are pointing to the Child Victims Act, saying they want to see legislators pass something similar, offering protection to them as well. A bill called the Adult Survivors Act attempts to do just that. The legislation, which has passed the state Senate, would extend a similar one-year window to adult sexual abuse victims who have otherwise been barred by New York’s statute of limitations from filing lawsuits for sexual abuse crimes.
The Adult Survivors Act
Supporters of the bill point to cases like those of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and gynecologist Robert Hadden as evidence of why adults need this measure to pass. In the case of Harvey Weinstein, his power and money kept women afraid and almost powerless to come forward with their sexual abuse allegations for fear he would ruin their budding careers in Hollywood. By the time sexual abuse allegations began mounting and women felt safer talking about their experiences with Weinstein, they were unable to legally hold him accountable for the alleged abuse because the statute of limitations had expired.
Advocates of the bill also point to the serious cases of sexual abuse purportedly committed by New York gynecologist Robert Hadden. Hadden has been accused of sexually assaulting more than 200 women under the guise of medical examinations. His reign of alleged terror extends back two decades, and although a 2016 plea deal required him to relinquish his medical license, he was never required to serve any jail time. Some of his alleged victims who were minors at the time of the abuse have been able to pursue claims against him thanks to the Child Victims Act, but adult survivors are still waiting for their day in court.
New York lawmakers have a unique opportunity to expand on the landmark Child Victims Act. Many survivors of sexual abuse are hoping they capitalize on it and pass the Adult Survivors Act.
Hach & Rose, LLP May Be Able to Help You Have Your Day in Court
If you were a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, or if your child has been a victim of abuse, the Child Victims Act may be able to help you get your day in court. Already, thousands of cases have been filed by courageous New Yorkers who have been in your shoes and know what it is like to come forward.
At Hach & Rose, LLP, we understand the bravery required to face the pain and talk about this type of traumatic event. Our experienced attorneys are committed to treating your case with sensitivity and compassion while we help guide you through the legal process towards justice.
If you are ready to talk about your situation, we are ready to listen. Call us today at (212) 779-0057. New York laws are changing. Let us help you understand what that means for your future.
The New York Child Victims Act (CVA) was passed in August 2019. CVA provided a one-year look-back window that allowed many survivors of child sexual abuse to bring a civil suit against their abuser and any institution that protected the abuser despite such an action being barred by the existing statute of limitations. For actions that are not barred by the statute of limitations, thanks to CVA, survivors now have until they are 55 years old to file a civil suit regardless of the amount of time that elapsed since the abuse took place.
Prior to the enactment of this law, survivors were barred from seeking redress in civil court if more than five years had passed since their eighteenth birthday. This new law acknowledged that many survivors of abuse are not prepared at the age of 23 to deal with the sexual abuse they suffered as a child. Often survivors need decades to deal with the trauma that they sustained. And even more time may be required before they are prepared to file suit against their abuser to hold them accountable. CVA recognizes that the harm experienced by child sexual abuse sufferers does not necessarily end when the statute of limitations expires but may continue throughout the survivor’s life.
Individuals who were sexually abused as children are at greater risk of developing the following conditions:
- Substance abuse (alcohol and/or drug)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Increased risk of suicide
- Issues with intimacy
- Issues with trust
- Eating disorders
- Issues with self-esteem
- Increased instability in relationships
- Sexual problems
Often these problems do not appear until long after the statute of limitations has expired, leaving survivors with no recourse. CVA attempts to address this issue.
However, COVID-19 diluted the immediate effect of this law. Due to the pandemic, New York courts suspended the filing of new cases. To address this lack of court access and the disruption of daily life caused by the virus, the New York Legislature extended the one-year window. Survivors may file civil actions until August 14, 2021. Time is running out to take advantage of this “window.” Once this window closes, you may be forever barred from seeking accountability from the person that molested you and the institution that allowed this to happen.
Often, even though there have been numerous allegations of sexual abuse, an institution fails to take action to protect children. For example, a former basketball coach at a Catholic school molested hundreds of little boys. However, despite numerous complaints over the years, the community, school, and church failed to remove this man from his position. He passed away in 1992, but the institutions that protected him remain. Under CVA, survivors may still pursue civil claims against these institutions, even though their molester is dead.
To successfully sue an institution, you must prove it was negligent. More specifically, the issue is whether the practices and procedures the institution had in place to reduce the risk of child sex abuse were adequate and whether these procedures were followed properly. Over the years, the reasonableness of the procedures has changed as society has become more aware of child sex abuse.
If your abuser is still living, there is a chance that they are still abusing children. Under CVA, an abuser can no longer hide behind the claim that the statute of limitations has expired. Bringing a suit may potentially stop your abuser from harming other children.
A man who was sexually abused by three employees of the Boys’ Club of New York in the 1970’s starting when he was just 11 years old filed suit against the Boys’ Club recently. The plaintiff had been barred from filing suit by the civil statute of limitations. But thanks to the look-back window of CVA, the plaintiff was able to sue the Boys’ Club of New York for its breach of duty and negligence.
Another survivor of sexual abuse recently brought suit against her abuser, the city of New York, and the Department of Education. The abuse took place between 2007 and 2009. The woman maintains that the school and the city acted negligently by failing to have policies and procedures in place to prevent such sexual abuse from happening to children in their care. The abuser is currently serving a 35-year prison term for abusing four girls and one boy between 2007 and 2009. One of the other female survivors already brought a civil action against the city and won a $16 million judgment.
To illustrate just how valuable CVA has been to survivors of child sexual abuse, from August 13, 2019 until December 31, 2020, alleged victims have filed 2,801 civil suits against various Catholic institutions throughout New York. Only 28 of these suits allege that the abuse took place after 2000. Thus, the overwhelming majority of these cases were time-barred by the statute of limitations and could not have been filed but for the look-back window opened by CVA.
Due to the avalanche of suits that have been filled in the wake of CVA, a number of institutions have filed bankruptcy. Four Catholic dioceses in New York State are among those that have filed.
The Boy Scouts of America is the largest institution that has sought protection in Bankruptcy Court due in large part to child sexual abuse allegations. Bankruptcy filing does not mean that a suit has no value. As one survivor said, the institution is trying to get a discount on child abuse. The lawsuits the Boy Scouts face are from across the country. As of yet, the Bankruptcy Court has not approved its proposed reorganization plan, which includes an average amount of $6,000 per claimant.
If you think that you should file suit because of child sexual abuse you endured, the time to act is now. You deserve compensation for the trauma you have suffered. While money cannot erase the physical and emotional pain, it can help you get the services you need to deal with the trauma. Call the experienced and compassionate attorneys of Hach & Rose, LLP at (212) 779-0057 to schedule a free consultation.
Amanda Donates, the charity run by our very own paralegal Amanda Lyons, has reached its one-year anniversary! To commemorate this great achievement, we chatted with her about her experience has been like.
What has it been like to run a charity for the first time?
It has definitely been a challenging balance! Not only am I a paralegal at Hach & Rose, LLP, but I’m also going to law school. It’s been tough, but it’s such an important cause and I always find time to make it happen.
I’ve also been trying to figure out the best route to take Amanda Donates in. We’ve recently decided to start the process of filing as a 501c3, which would register us officially as a nonprofit and grant us tax-exempt status. It will open a lot of doors for us, which is great.
What is it like to serve the community?
Making personal connections with the community is my favorite thing about Amanda Donates. Over the past year, I’ve been working hard to figure out how I can make the biggest impact. When we first started, we changed the location of our food pantry every month so we could donate to different areas. But we found that to be difficult; since we were never in the same place consistently, the community couldn’t get used to relying on us. Additionally, once quarantine ended and businesses started to open again, moving around became more difficult because we now need permits to host our events. With everything shut down that wasn’t a problem, but it’s not the same anymore. So I decided to settle on one location, P.S. 124 in Brooklyn, for the time being. Now we see the same people each month and we can really start to get to know them. Being in the same place we’ve been able to better serve the community, because I know what their particular needs are. Also, since we’re there each month, the local businesses are starting to take an interest in what we’re doing, and we can build relationships with them.
All of this to say, the learning curve we’ve experienced over the past year has led to some great changes. Staying in one place has really allowed us to get to know the neighborhood.
What do you enjoy most about the effort and time you have dedicated to giving back?
Seeing the impact that Amanda Donates has had on the community is amazing to experience. I’ve gotten to hear firsthand stories from members of the community and really learn about what they’re going through. I also love that being in one location each month means that people can rely on us. I can tell a new visitor that they can count on us being here at the same place next month, so they can plan to rely on our donations. This also helps us to make an even greater impact, because they can tell their friends and family that we’re here.
What is your mission statement?
Amanda Donates is organized and operated exclusively for charitable purposes. More specifically, Amanda Donates is dedicated to empowering change in surrounding communities by providing goods and services to those that are hungry, facing hardship, or are simply down on their luck.
What have you accomplished over the past year?
It has been an incredibly productive year! So far we’ve accomplished 10 food pantries, supporting our community with essential food and supplies. In addition, we’ve been involved in fundraisers, school supply donation drives, toy drives for the holiday season, monetary donations, and more. I’m so proud of everything we’ve been able to achieve so far, and I can’t wait to do even more this year.
What are your plans for this year?
Soon we should get approved as an Incorporated organization, and after that we can start on the application as a 501c3. This should really open some doors for us for corporate donations, because many places are unable to donate unless the organization is a 501c3. We have a significant amount of donations from generous individuals that allow me to run this pantry every month, but it wouldn’t be enough to serve more than one community. Hopefully we can develop relationships with larger corporations who could supplement what we offer. I’d also love to develop a relationship with a wholesaler who could deliver directly to either my home or to our pantry. At the moment I’m doing all of the shopping myself, which limits me to how many things I can get at one time, and my budget would go farther if I could get the supplies at wholesale prices. All of this will hopefully lead to being able to host multiple locations each month, so that we can serve more communities.
Where do you see Amanda Donates going in the future?
It’s really important to me to serve the NYC area, because there are so many people in need here, so I always want Amanda Donates to have roots in NYC and serving this community. But in the future, I’d love to think about serving other countries as well. My goal is to bring Amanda Donates to places we can make a difference on the ground, helping people one-on-one as we always have.
When is your next event, and how can people get involved?
Our next event is on May 15 at P.S. 124 in Brooklyn! We can always use more donations and volunteers. The most useful items are shelf-stable things like rice, pasta, cereal, canned soup, or breakfast foods like oatmeal. Also, microwaveable prepared meals are great as well. We always get a mixture of people who either don’t have full kitchens or have no kitchen access at all, so we really need items that people can eat even without appliances.
We also always need volunteers! If you’d like to get involved in any way, you can contact me at (347) 479-8266, or email me at email@example.com.
In New York State, the following behavior is considered sexual abuse:
- Obscene sexual performance
- Fondling a child’s genitals
- Any act that involves exposing a child to sexual activity or exhibitionism
- Any commercial exploitation such as prostitution or production and dissemination of pornographic materials
New York law deems any child under the age of 17 or one who is mentally incapacitated or physically helpless, to be incapable of consenting to a sexual act. See Parents’ Guide to New York State Child Abuse and Neglect Laws
An underreported problem is online child sexual abuse. Because the internet spans the globe and the laws vary from country to country, and the perpetrators of online child sexual abuse are often quite sophisticated, law enforcement efforts are severely hampered.
There are three main types of online child sexual abuse:
- Online grooming – a practice in which an adult befriends a child with the intention of sexually abusing that child. Perpetrators select a child on the basis of appeal/attractiveness. They also consider the ease of access: that is, the degree to which the privacy settings on websites frequented by the child are either inadequate or disabled. Perpetrators consider the child’s vulnerabilities. For example, if a child posts about loneliness, isolation, or feeling misunderstood, a perpetrator will exploit that vulnerability. To develop a friendship with the child, the perpetrator uses information that he finds online about the child. The perpetrator uses information, such as a hobby or a family situation, to bond with the child and cultivate their trust. The perpetrator determines the risk of discovery before any sexual exploitation by asking if anyone, such as a parent, monitors the child’s online activity. They tell the child that their relationship is exclusive and secret. The perpetrator’s objective is to manipulate and control the child in order to sexually exploit or abuse them. The exploitation or abuse can be offline. The perpetrator may set up a physical meeting with the child to abuse him or her. The relationship may remain online, such as when the perpetrator manipulates the child into taking a sexually explicit picture or video and sending it to the perpetrator. Both kinds of abuse are damaging to children.
- Child sexual abuse / exploitation material – any manner of depicting of a child engaging in or pretending to engage in explicit sexual activity or the sexual parts of a child for mainly sexual purposes. This material may be disseminated online by email, text message, chat rooms, instant messaging, sharing apps, social media, and communication apps. This material may also be shared on password-protected sites, bulletin boards, and forums.
- Live streaming of child sexual abuse – real-time broadcasting of the sexual abuse of a child. This type of abuse is found in online chat rooms, communication apps, and social media platforms. Viewers may be “passive,” meaning they pay to watch. Viewers may also be “active.” Active viewers request certain physical acts.
The age of consent of a child varies by state and by country, which impedes cross-border cooperation with respect to online child sexual abuse.
The production and dissemination of sexually explicit images of children have reached epidemic proportions. A New York Times investigation found that there were over 3,000 child sexual abuse imagery online in 1998. This number grew to over 100,000 by 2008. Six years later, the number of reports of online images surpassed 1 million. By 2018 the number of images reported was 18.4 million.
Technology such as smartphone cameras, social media, and cloud storage have contributed to the proliferation of sexually explicit images that can be found on the web. New and recirculated images can be found on internet platforms such as Facebook Messenger, Microsoft’s Bing search engine, and even a storage service like Dropbox.
Law enforcement agents have found a number of online groups that specialize in sharing images of young children and more extreme forms of abuse. These groups are often found on the dark web and utilize encrypted technologies in an attempt to avoid discovery by law enforcement. Several tech companies such as Facebook and Google have increased surveillance of their platforms even though the law does not require them to look for child abuse. The law only requires tech companies to report child abuse when they find it. To further complicate matters for law enforcement, many of these sophisticated online groups use tools such as encryption to teach pedophiles how to produce and disseminate sexually explicit material worldwide.
The victims of this type of abuse not only have to deal with the trauma they experienced when the abuse took place but now live with the constant fear that someone will recognize them from the pictures and videos that are circulating on the internet.
The New York Times investigation that revealed how large the problem is prompted federal legislation that allocates money and resources to combat the problem. Previously proposed bills had targeted tech companies and required them to follow safety guidelines. Failure to follow these guidelines could jeopardize protections for the content of the tech companies.
These bills failed in part because of privacy concerns. There was significant concern that the safety guidelines could be used to ban encryption that the tech companies used on their messaging apps and other platforms. Many people use these encrypted apps because they value their privacy, not because they are trying to hide illegal behavior.
The bill titled Invest in Child Safety Act was originally introduced in May 2020 and was reintroduced in February 2021. This bill calls for five billion dollars in funding to target online predators and abusers. These individuals use the internet to create and share images of children being sexually exploited. The bill also directs significant funding to efforts within the community aimed at preventing the sexual abuse of children. This bill is still pending in Congress.
Abusers win when their victims are too scared, embarrassed, and/or traumatized to name or go after their abusers. The attorneys at Hach & Rose, LLP will help you assert your legal rights. We will be with you through each phase of the legal process. Take the first step towards reclaiming your life and call Hach & Rose, LLP at (212) 779-0057 for a free consultation.
2020 was a hard year for everyone, and surprisingly, one of the most dangerous places to be was on the road. While many were at home, there was far less congestion, but drivers drove less carefully, and the death toll from car wrecks was 24% higher than in 2019.
According to the National Safety Council, the death toll jumped from 38,800 to 42,060 people on U.S. roads from 2019 to 2020. Because there were far fewer drivers, this upped the percentage of road fatalities to the highest it has been since before 4-wheel brakes were introduced nearly a century ago.
There were several factors that contributed to these statistics. In the beginning, cities rushed to create a variety of accessibility options for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists to find a way to get out and still function while socially distancing. These included make-shift bike lanes, car light shows, and others like them designed to stem traffic congestion. However, as the pandemic wore on, these measures grew unsustainable. As the traffic lanes opened up, it became apparent that the number one hazard was the design of roads that enabled high-speed driving without taking other hazards into consideration. For safer driving habits to become permanent, changes need to be made, such as stronger federal laws requiring better safety features like collision warning on new cars and ignition interlock systems to prevent drunk driving and discourage repeat offenders.
The numbers were high across the nation, but five parts of the country showed heavier concentrations of deadly accidents. Accidents occurred at rates of 30% or higher than the previous year in Washington D.C., South Dakota, and Vermont, while Rhode Island and Arkansas increased at rates of 26%. The data clearly shows that something must be done.
The National Safety Council also noted that there are some tighter measures that could also curb other contributing factors such as restricting the rules for getting a driver’s license for teenagers, creating ways to cut down on cell phone usage behind the wheel with better laws and technology designed to protect motorists. Some of these features can be had in some cars, but they are not available across the board. If the nation is serious about saving lives on the road, these elements must be taken into consideration so everyone can enjoy the roads more safely.
As Americans seek to recover and learn from the hardships of the past twelve months, focusing on traffic safety is an important first step. There are countless ways we can improve, and the first is to take this death-toll spike seriously. If everyone were to reach out to their elected officials on every level to shine a light on this issue and demand changes be made, those who lost their lives did not do so in vain. Making our laws more targeted, our infrastructure more supported, and our cars more advanced will enrich the lives of our communities and allow more people to enjoy the road.
2 3 350 Next »