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. Tragically, children with a physical or learning disability and mental illnesses are almost three times more likely to be sexually abused. Health problems such as these may magnify the difficulties in identifying mental health problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, that have a causal connection to the abuse.
Until February 2019, New York had the strictest laws in the nation, which required victims of sexual abuse to commence civil lawsuits seeking damages before their twenty-third birthday. Thankfully, the law has changed.
The New York Child Victims Act
Studies have found that, on average, it took 24 years from when a child was 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 implementing many crucial modifications to existing law. Several abuse cases stem from institutional failures, and the Act avidly portrays the New York Legislature’s 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.
Statute of Limitations Extended
New York has created a platform for several other states and countries to mimic its’ decision regarding 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 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, daycare centers, or other recreational associations where children frequently participate in activities or congregate. Further, businesses where the abuse occurred and 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 intending 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. Now, victims can move quickly to seek justice.
Justice for Juvenile Victims
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 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 that encompasses many 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 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.
Civil Litigation For Sexually Abused Children
The protection of society is the objective of 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 the child suffers is often included in civil litigation. Sexual abuse is among the most heinous crimes comprehendible, particularly when a defenseless child is a victim. At Hach & Rose, LLP, we are devoted to safeguarding sexual abuse victims by bringing their offenders to justice, helping protect their legal rights, and getting them the full compensation and reparation they deserve.
Who can sue?
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 previously expired claims under the old statute of limitations. This right is important because survivors who could not file a claim previously can now 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 to 25 years.
Both the survivor and, if a minor, the survivor’s legal caregiver have the ability to sue for sexual abuse of a child. The suit can be for many things, such as physical, emotional, 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.
The negligent hiring or retention theory
Under the negligent hiring or retention theory, an employer may be liable for failure to appropriately monitor or screen an employee 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 the victim suffers and the amount of suffering the victim will continue to endure. 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 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 what is required to prevail in a criminal case.
Red Flags That Indicate Child Abuse
Is your child, friend, or family member enduring sexual abuse? There are clear-cut red flags that could confirm your suspicions. Is your child suffering from a loss of appetite? Are they suddenly depressed? Is your child isolating himself or herself? Is your child abusing substances? Are they 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 first step is the most important step a victim can take to achieve justice.
That first step requires you to immediately consult and hire an experienced, compassionate, and committed attorney who aggressively protects 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 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, our New York sexual abuse attorneys work diligently and zealously to represent those who could not protect themselves. If you or a loved one has suffered from sexual abuse, it is critical to act now. Do not hesitate to contact the 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 responsible for the abuse and its damages to you.