Every Survivor of Child Sexual Abuse is Entitled to Justice
Hach & Rose, LLP Wants to Help You Have Your Voice Heard
by Hillary Nappi
Children are indisputably the most innocent members of our community. Young, innocent, impressionable and often unable to communicate or understand what is occurring to them, children are unfortunately the frequent target of sexual predators. Indeed, it has been reported that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old. Tragically, children with physical or learning disability and mental illness are almost three times more likely to be sexually abused. Health problems such as these may have the effect of magnifying the difficulties in identifying mental health problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, that have a causal connection to the abuse.
Up until February 2019, New York had the strictest laws in the nation which required victims of sexual abuse to commence civil lawsuits seeking damages prior to their twenty-third birthday. Thankfully, the law has changed.
Studies have found that on average, it took 24 years from the time a child has been abused to disclose their terrible reality to anyone. Understanding that often children will not be able to communicate their abuse immediately, New York State passed the New York Child Victims Act extending the statute of limitations so that those who have been abused – either physically or as a result of voyeurism and child pornography – can have their day in court and move toward obtaining closure. The New York Child Victims Act provides victims of sexual abuse, or survivors of abuse, the opportunity to rectify unfathomable wounds. At the very least, the Act gives these victims the potential to be protected and feel protected. Lawmakers have said this is the most rewarding and important thing that they have done with their lives. They are not wrong. New York State lawmakers have changed the life of survivors and now allows victims to pursue claims against their abusers – and other negligent and responsible parties – until the age of 55. The New York Child Victims Act also includes a “look-back window” for adult victims who were too old to pursue civil lawsuits against their abusers and those who were negligent in allowing their abuse because of the prior statute of limitations.
The Child Victims Act releases a portion of the burden on victims by its’ implementation of many crucial modifications to existing law. Several abuse cases stem from institutional failures, and the Act avidly portrays the New York Legislatures’ understanding of the underlying troubles presented. Any claims that arise from injuries and harms related to sexual offenses committed against minors will be covered by the Act’s extension of the civil statute of limitations. These harms may include intentional torts, negligent hiring, negligent safety procedures, and negligent supervision.
New York has created a platform for several other states and countries to mimic its’ decision in regard to amending the statute of limitations for sexual abuse victims. Child victims of sexual abuse now have significantly more time to come forward, disclose their abuse, and criminally or civilly prosecute those that harmed them. Child sexual abuse is extremely widespread, and an extension of the statute of limitations for civil litigation will aid in the growth of public knowledge. This breakthrough legislation now allows individuals to hold institutions or organizations ‒ where a child molester took advantage of children ‒ accountable. These institutions could be a church, a school district, a little league association, the Boy Scouts, day care centers or other recreational associations where children frequently participate in activities or congregate. Further, businesses where the abuse took place and where predators were employed or volunteered like hospitals or camps may also be liable for their negligence! In addition, the once silenced victims now have the chance to name their abuser, the establishments that concealed them, and the establishments that re-located the victims among other institutions with the intent to target and damage other children. Victims of sexual abuse had been reluctant to pursue their valid claims due to New York state’s restrictive statute of limitations and notice of claim requirements. In turn, an innumerable quantity of offenders went unpunished as they were released from the procedural hook due to the statute of limitations expiration. Fortunately, the New York Child Victims Act has completely removed the necessity of filing a notice of claim for these previously time barred suits against public entities, and now victims can move with speed to seek justice.
The very definition of justice cannot always be afforded through the Criminal Justice System. District Attorneys represent the State of New York and proceed to file criminal charges in an effort to protect society from sexual predators. Often, victims will testify. However, criminal charges do not provide for the pain and suffering that survivors of childhood sexual abuse often endure. Civil cases can result in compensation to these survivors which can help ease the burden of the cost of the appropriate mental health treatment. Although no amount of money will negate the harm suffered, it has the potential to alleviate even the smallest amount of anguish, and will carry with it a sense of justice and closure for victims.
Each survivor has experienced trauma differently. A plethora of effects in adulthood can result from childhood sexual abuse. While some adult survivors experience few mental health problems throughout their life, others are incapable of participating in society due to their constant battle with mental health related issues from the abuse. Abuse is a form of trauma and it encompasses a vast mix of complex factors. Factors can vary from the gravity of the trauma, how long the mistreatment persisted, and the amount of trauma the victim previously endured. At Hach & Rose, LLP, we know that every victim deserves to be heard and every victim has been hurt differently. We understand that a victim who has been sexually abused has experienced an individual trauma and the severity of that trauma does not coincide with the amount of violence with your abuse.
Protection of society is the objective in a criminal proceeding. In a civil proceeding, the objective is to seek the best interests of the sexually abused child. Compensation for the emotional and physical injuries suffered by the child are often included in a civil litigation. Sexual abuse is amidst the most heinous crimes comprehendable, particularly when a defenseless child is the victim. At Hach & Rose, LLP, we are devoted to safeguarding sexual abuse victims by bringing their offenders to justice, to help protect the victims’ legal rights, and get them the full compensation and reparation they deserve.
Who can bring a civil lawsuit? Under the Child Victims Act, survivors are able to file a claim against private and public institutions that may have played a role in aiding the abuse. Negligence on the part of the institution is included here, and the survivors have this new ability to file these types of claims due to the elimination of the notice of claim requirement under the Act. The novel one-year extension period allows survivors to file claims against these institutions for claims that had previously expired under the old statute of limitations. This right carries great importance because survivors who were unable to file a claim previously, are now able to file a claim for money damages. Moreover, the statute of limitations for misdemeanor offenses also received a valuable extension. The Child Victims Act increased the statute of limitations for misdemeanor offenses from 20 years to 25 years.
Both the survivor and, if a minor, the survivor’s legal care giver has the ability to sue for sexual abuse of a child. The suit can be for many things such as physical harm, emotional harm, and any other harm associated with the abuse. While the causes of action for sexual abuse are fact sensitive and vary from case to case, some of the typical claims in these types of cases are; assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. An additional claim against the defendant for false imprisonment may arise if he or she threatened the child in some way or confined the child to a certain area against his or her will.
Under the negligent hiring or retention theory, an employer may be held liable for failure to appropriately monitor or screen an employee that was involved in the sexual abuse of a child. For claims of intentional torts such as assault and battery, the plaintiff must show his or her refusal to consent to the defendant’s acts. However, even without this showing, the law has held that a child does not maintain the capacity to give valid, informed consent to sexual acts. Monetary damages in child sexual abuse cases are measured by the emotional and physical harm suffered by the victim, coupled with the amount of suffering the victim will continue to endure. In order to advise a jury of the estimated cost of potential therapy for the victim, expert testimony may be used to calculate such costs.
It is important to understand that just because victims can now have their day in court and seek redress does not mean that the burden of proof has changed. In civil cases, victims must still be able to prove liability which essentially means that there must be proof by a fair preponderance of the evidence that their abuse occurred. This is a lesser standard of proof than that of what is required to prevail in a criminal case.
Is your child, friend, or family member enduring a form of sexual abuse? There are clear cut red flags that could confirm your suspicions. Is your child suffering from a loss of appetite? Is your child suddenly depressed? Is your child isolating himself or herself? Is your child abusing substances? Is your child self-harming or expressing thoughts of engaging in self harm? Has your child been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease or infection? Is your child expressing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or nightmares? Are you positive that your child has been a victim of sexual abuse? The most important step a victim can take to achieve justice is the first step.
That first step requires you to immediately consult and hire an experienced, compassionate and committed attorney who knows how to aggressively protect your rights. Because these experiences often rock children to their core and result in delayed disclosure and reporting, litigating claims that span several decades becomes complicated. New York state has progressed immensely with its’ receptiveness to abuse victims’ voices. The right to legal recourse is one of the steps New York has taken with the hope of healing, redressing, and protecting these victims of sexual abuse. The survivors of child sexual assault were awarded a victory when legislators passed the Child Victims Act. The next victory to be attained is in the area of understanding the explicit and unequivocal need for attorneys who can handle such complicated litigation. Hach & Rose, LLP is versed in complicated lawsuits and its attorneys are fearless in taking on lawsuits with powerful Defendants.
At Hach & Rose, LLP, we are committed to working diligently and zealously to represent those who could not protect themselves. If you or a loved one has suffered from any form of sexual abuse, it is critical 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 sexual abuse 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.