For many survivors of clergy sexual abuse, it can be years before the abuse is brought to light. Some individuals subconsciously bury their painful memories as way to deal with the trauma they experienced. Other survivors were too young at the time of the abuse to understand what was happening to them. When clergy abuse is discovered years after it occurred, it becomes more difficult to hold the perpetrators responsible due to the statute of limitations.
Statutes of limitations set forth the time in which an individual must file a civil or criminal lawsuit after the wrongdoing has been committed or there has been a “discovery” of harm. This becomes problematic when abuse is committed against those who might not remember or recognize abuse had occurred until the statute of limitations has expired, thus barring their claim.
Several states, including New York and New Jersey, have recently expanded the length of time in which clergy abuse survivors can bring a lawsuit. Under New Jersey law, adult survivors have a “window” until November 2021 to file a lawsuit, regardless of when the abuse occurred. Going forward, survivors will have seven years after the discovery of harm to file suit or up to the age of 55. Advocates for abuse survivors continue to work to change the statute of limitations in other states, including Pennsylvania. Currently pending legislation in Pennsylvania would similarly increase the time in which survivors could file suit.
Despite promises by Pope Francis to hold priests accountable for their abuse, the Catholic Church has launched extensive lobbying efforts to block such changes. Williams Cedar recently commissioned a report that estimated that the Church has spent over $10.6 million in recent years fighting legislative efforts to pass liberalized statues of limitations like New York’s Child Victims Act.
If you or a loved one has suffered clergy abuse, you are not alone. Working with compassion for abuse survivors and the desire to hold all perpetuators of clergy abuse accountable for their actions, the experienced Trenton clergy abuse lawyers at Williams Cedar will not stop until you receive the justice you deserve. With offices conveniently located in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we proudly represent clergy abuse survivors nationwide and throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including the areas of Camden, Metuchen, and Trenton. To schedule a free confidential consultation today, call us at 215-557-0099 or 856-470-9777 or submit an online inquiry form.