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Sexual Abuse

The Child Victims Act Causes a Ripple Effect in New York 

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.


How the New York Child Victims Act Can Benefit You

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:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • 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.


Online Child Sexual Abuse: How it Works and What’s Being Done

In New York State, the following behavior is considered sexual abuse:

  • Incest
  • Rape
  • Obscene sexual performance
  • Fondling a child’s genitals
  • Intercourse
  • Sodomy
  • 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


Identifying signs of sexual abuse in children and getting help

It can be difficult to determine whether your child has been sexually abused, but there are warning signs to watch for if you suspect that they are being harmed, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). It is imperative to recognize these signs and get professional assistance as soon as possible if your child shows signs of being sexually abused.

Physical signs

  • Sexually transmitted infections, or STIs
  • Injuries to the pubic region, such as unexplained bleeding or bruising

Emotional and behavioral signs

  • Bedwetting if the child is known to have already outgrown this habit
  • Resists being left alone or with certain people
  • Sexual behavior that is unusual for their age or personality
  • Talking excessively about sexual topics
  • Reverting back to habits they outgrew, such as sucking their thumb
  • Constant nightmares and being afraid to be left alone at night

It should be noted that if only one of these signs is apparent in your child, that does not necessarily mean that they have been sexually abused. However, if you notice a number of these signs, it might be useful to reach out to a professional who can help you determine their cause. Call the police if the child tells you what happened so the proper authorities can start conducting a criminal investigation.

What to expect from a personal injury attorney

If you choose to file a personal injury claim for damages caused by sexual abuse, you can expect to win compensation for your child’s suffering, including:

  • Medical bills
  • Emotional pain and suffering
  • The cost of therapy
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Damages for emotional distress, such as PTSD

If you need immediate help, call the National Sexual Abuse Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to speak with someone confidentially.

If you believe your child has been the victim of sexual abuse, particularly if it happened while at a church, school, or organization, please know that you are not alone in this. Consider reaching out to the experienced New York sex abuse attorneys at Hach & Rose, LLP. Our attorneys are compassionate, caring, and attentive. We will fight to win you the compensation you deserve for counseling, medical bills, pain and suffering, and more. Our number is (212) 779-0057, or you can always reach us online.


Understanding Online Threats to Your Kids

Online Threats to Your KidsWhile the internet can be a great resource, it can also provide a risky environment for users, especially for children. Some of the greatest online threats that kids face include:

Cyberbullying: The number one online threat to kids is cyberbullying. An estimated 60% of U.S. teens have experienced some kind of cyberbullying, according to the Pew Research Center. This can include posting or sharing mean, negative, or private pictures or information about another person to hurt or humiliate them. Cyberbullying takes place over text, apps, email, and social media sites through computers, cell phones, and other similar devices.

Cyberbullying is particularly concerning because it can be harder for parents and school officials to detect and prevent than bullying that takes place in person. It’s also difficult to escape because bullies can access their victims 24 hours a day, and many of the things the bullies post or share are permanent and can cause long-term damage to the victim’s reputation and mental health. Over 60% of victims of cyberbullying say it has impacted their school performance. Bullying also increases the risk of depression, self-harm, eating disorders, and even suicide.

 

Child predators: Another top online threat is sexual predators who try to get children to engage in inappropriate conversations or even meet them in person. The predators might set up fake profiles on online gaming sites and social media and pretend to be the same age as the child as a way to coax them into a friendship and earn their trust (known as “grooming”).

 

Graphic content: Even an innocent online search can lead kids to accidently find inappropriate content, such as sexual or violent images and videos.

 

Cybercrime: Many games, apps, and social media sites have pop-up ads, in-app purchase opportunities, and fake links that are intended to steal your information. This “clickbait” can trick users into downloading malware and give cybercriminals to sensitive information, such as bank accounts and passwords.

 

It’s easy for parents to feel overwhelmed by all of the online threats to your kids. However, there are steps parents can take to protect them, such as:

 

Education: Warn kids about online dangers and educate them about online safety. Teach children that they should only talk to people online that they know in real life like relatives and age-appropriate friends. Help them understand that things they do online can have real life and long-term consequences. Tell children to never make an online purchase without parental permission, and use simple language to teach them about other online risks like suspicious websites, emails, links, attachments, and text messages. Encourage kids to avoid leaving their phones unattended, and discourage them from sharing passwords.

 

Rules: Place computers in common areas, and limit the amount of time kids are allowed spend online and on devices. Set limits on what activities kids are allowed to do online, sites they are allowed to visit, etc. and warn them that you will monitor their internet usage.

 

Listening: Talk with children to learn about what is happening in their lives. Provide a safe environment for kids to tell you about anything they encounter online that scares them or makes them feel uncomfortable, even if they saw it while doing something against the rules.

 

Learn the signs: In addition to listening to children, learn the signs that they might be experiencing an online threat. Signs might include things like missing school, getting upset right after receiving a text or online message, declining grades, suddenly avoiding their computer or phone, or changes in eating and sleeping habits. If you notice anything suspicious, talk with your child before the situation gets worse.

 

Use protective cyber tools: Make sure the software and operating systems on your child’s computer, phone, and other devices are up to date. Install antivirus and anti-malware software to protect the kid’s device against infection. Use parental control software and change settings on vulnerable sites like YouTube to restricted mode to block inappropriate websites and content.

Contact a New York Injury Lawyer

If your child was stalked, harassed, or abused by an online predator, you have rights and legal options. Depending on the specifics of your situation, you could even have grounds to file a civil case against the perpetrator. Contact a New York sex abuse lawyer of Hach & Rose, LLP to discuss what happened and find out the legal options available to you when you call (212) 779-0057.


Sexual Abuse at Work: By the Numbers

Sexual Abuse at WorkAccording to the 2019 definition from the United States Department of Justice, sexual assault is described as “any nonconsensual sexual act proscribed by Federal, tribal, or State law, including when the victim lacks the capacity to consent” (U.S. DOJ, OVW 2019). Sexual abuse can happen within a number of different settings, but perhaps one of the most egregious is within the workplace. Unfortunately, this type of sexual abuse is all too common.

In a joint-study conducted by the TUC and Everyday Sexism, researchers estimated that approximately 52 percent of women reported being subject to unwanted sexual behaviors, including inappropriate jokes, sexual advances, and groping. The study also shows that younger women are more vulnerable to workplace harassment. When researchers focused on women ages 16 to 24, the percentage of harassment victims jumped to 63 percent.

There are more alarming statistics found in the study, including:

  • “One in eight women reported unwanted sexual touching of their breasts, buttocks, genitals, or kissing attempts at work”
  • Almost one-fifth of women reported being harassed by their boss, or some other workplace authority figure
  • 1 percent of women reported being raped or seriously sexually assaulted in the workplace.
  • However, over 80 percent of women did not report their incidents to their employers, fearing that they would harm their work relationships, not be taken seriously, or even be let go from their positions.

Fortunately, more and more women are beginning to come forward with their cases of sexual abuse. According to police statistics, the number of women reporting incidents of sexual abuse in New York City increased by 8.4 percent. Thanks to changing social norms, more victims of sexual abuse are rightfully seeking justice.

>Contact a New York Sexual Abuse Lawyer

No one should have to worry about being subjected to sexual abuse within the workplace. If you or someone you know has suffered the physical, emotional, and financial impact of being abused at work, you have every right to seek justice. At Hach & Rose, LLP, our experienced team of New York sex abuse lawyers has extensive experience helping victims of sexual abuse and will do everything in their power to get justice for you. Call us at (212) 779-0057 to schedule a free, confidential consultation with us today.


The Impact of Sexual Assault on Survivors Is More Than Skin-Deep

Sexual assault is something that no one should ever have to experience. While physical trauma will heal, emotional and psychological trauma can linger for the remainder of an assault survivor’s lifetime. According to data from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), “one in five women and one in seventy-one men will be raped at some point in their lives.” What’s even more alarming is that the vast majority of survivors report being assaulted by someone they knew.

Researchers have estimated that the lifetime cost of rape per victim is $122,461. Unfortunately, some of this cost is paid for by the victim. In a study published by the American Journal of Public Health, researchers estimated that victims paid an average of $950 in medical bills for receiving treatment after their assault. This means that survivors do not only have to cope with heavy physical and emotional burdens but heavy financial burdens as well. 

Unfortunately, many survivors never report being sexually assaulted. According to a study from the National Statistic Institute (ISTAT), researchers found that approximately 91.6% of rapes are not reported to the police. However, in a 2019 report from the New York Times (NYT), the New York City Police stated that the number of reported rapes increased by 22.4% within the past year. That equates to roughly 300 more people coming forward to inform police of their assault.

Maureen Curtis, the Director of Criminal Justice Programs for Safe Horizon, believes that the sharp increase in reported rapes may be the result of shifting cultural landscapes. “[Survivors are] feeling more believed,” said Curtis in an interview with the NYT. “There’s more compassion, and there’s less blaming around the person who has been victimized.”

Contact a New York Sexual Abuse Lawyer

If you were the victim of sexual assault or abuse, Hach & Rose, LLP‘s compassionate and understanding team of attorneys will take aggressive action to seek justice on your behalf. We are here to support you, so contact us to schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our team today.


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