Bill to ease sex abuse statute of limitations nears vote
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Victims of childhood sexual abuse in New Jersey could soon join those in other states who have benefited from legislation that loosens restrictions on when they can seek damages in court.
State Sen. Joseph Vitale and Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, both Democrats, announced Thursday that a bill extending the statute of limitations on civil claims is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate judiciary committee early next month.
The legislation would allow child victims to sue up until they turn 55 or within seven years of their first realization that the abuse caused them harm. The current limit is two years. Adult victims also would have seven years from the discovery of the abuse.
The bill also would give a two-year window to victims who were previously barred by the statute of limitations.
“We need to give victims more time to bring their cases and we need to do it now,” Vitale said in a statement. “Not one more victim should be turned away and denied their day in court.”
Legislation to modify New Jersey’s laws has been on lawmakers’ radar for nearly a decade. Legislators introduced the forerunner of the bill that formed the basis of the agreement announced Thursday in 2010.
The announcement came on the heels of two developments in the state’s reckoning with sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy.
On Wednesday, New Jersey’s five dioceses released the names of more than 180 priests credibly accused of sexually abusing minors over a span of decades. Two days earlier they announced the creation of a compensation fund for victims. Those receiving compensation will give up their right to sue, a fund administrator said this week.
The New Jersey announcement also came on the same day New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed similar legislation loosening the state’s statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims. About three-quarters of states have amended their statutes of limitations for child sex abuse cases since 2002, according to Child USA, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit research and advocacy group.