Child Victims Act
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.
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.
by Hillary Nappi
Since its enactment in February 2019, the Child Victims Act has produced an overwhelming response: hundreds of survivors of childhood sexual abuse have now come forward and are ready to have their voices heard. These survivors are of both genders, all races, live in all parts of New York state, and are of all socio-economic backgrounds. What they share is that they were sexually abused and assaulted as children, and at the time that the crimes occurred lacked the context for their abuse and the language and power to speak up for themselves.
These survivors, including our client, now have the opportunity to come forward and seek justice for the illegal, heinous, and immoral acts that were forced upon them. That is the case with the suit against the Smithtown Gospel Tabernacle and Camp Cherith in the Adirondacks. Our client finally reached a point in her life where she was able to speak up for herself and report the crimes that were committed against her.
As stated in her complaint, our client was only five years old when she was sexually abused and assaulted by Ron Braaten, a Youth Minister that was employed by the Smithtown Gospel Tabernacle. The first attacks occurred on property owned, operated, and controlled by Smithtown Gospel Tabernacle and were provided to Braaten for his exclusive use as a benefit of his employment. Braaten lived in the house with his family. Our client first met Braaten when she was in kindergarten, while assigned to the same class as his daughter. The girls became friends and would often play together in and out of school. However, playdates at the Braaten house were not normal. Braaten would make our client sit on his lap, as he rubbed her stomach over her clothes, which eventually morphed into Braaten sexually abusing our client.
Our client was fearful and uncomfortable every time she was around Braaten but as a Christian member of the Tabernacle, she was taught that Braaten was a “good man.” Braaten and his wife preached morality in the community, pushing the mission of the Smithtown Gospel Tabernacle, all the while masking his pedophilic tendencies. Morality is something that Braaten lacked and that is evident in the allegations filed in the complaint. After our client was sexually assaulted and abused, Smithtown Gospel Tabernacle continued to support Braaten’s missions in South America and he had continued access to other children. Our brave client came forward and reported her abuse, but Braaten remains outside of the United States.
As word of our Plaintiff’s lawsuit spread, our client has found more support in her community than she thought possible. If you or someone you know was abused by Ron Braaten, contact our law firm.
At Hach & Rose, LLP, we are committed to achieving the justice that our clients deserve. We will work thoroughly and passionately to represent those who felt they could not protect themselves. If you or a loved one has suffered from any form of sexual assault, it is crucial to act now. Do not hesitate to contact the New York sexual abuse lawyers at Hach & Rose, LLP today at (212) 779-0057 or online. Our compassionate, caring, and experienced attorneys will work diligently to uncover whether criminal charges, a civil lawsuit – or both – can be filed against the perpetrator or negligent third party who is responsible for the abuse and its damages to you.
Staten Island, NY (July 4, 2019) – Several allegations of sexual abuse have surfaced against a former Staten Island priest who also served as principal and dean at two high schools. Monsignor John Paddock has officially stepped down from his current duties at a Manhattan parish.
Ellington, NY (July 3, 2019) – According to the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division, a man has been arrested for sexual abuse following an investigation. Frederick Nutt Jr., 49, of Sinclairville, was arrested on Wednesday, July 3rd, for engaging in a criminal sexual act with a juvenile, according to authorities.
Elmont, NY (July 3, 2019) – Police have arrested a 24-year-old man who turned himself in on Tuesday, July 2nd after he was reported to have sexually abused a 14-year-old girl. The incident took place at a birthday party in Elmont on Sunday, June 30th, according to authorities.
Coram, NY (June 27, 2019) – A man from Long Island who has been accused of raping a 14-year-old girl is under arrest as of Thursday, June 27th, according to police. 33-year-old Ricardo Gurdon was arrested and subsequently charged with first-degree rape, as well as a first-degree criminal sex act.
Liverpool, NY (June 27, 2019) – New York State Police in North Syracuse announced the arrest of a man for possession of child pornography on Thursday, June 27th. According to authorities, Raymond E. Congdon, 38, is now facing charges related to the sexual performance of a child.
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