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On Dec. 1, New Jersey opened up a two-year window for survivors of sexual abuse as children, in which they can file lawsuits regardless of when the abuse took place.

This is one of the changes under the new law signed by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy in May.

As the Roman Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal unfolds, it is expected that this two-year period will allow hundreds of victims of childhood sexual assault to pursue litigation, including many who are expected to file lawsuits against Catholic dioceses they claim covered up their abuse and protected their attackers.

According to New Jersey, the statute of limitations was also extended, so that after this two-year window, child sexual abuse survivors will now have until the age of 55 to sue their abusers instead of only age 20—or, within seven years after realizing the harm caused by the abuse.



While Dec. 1 was a Sunday, which means courts were closed, lawsuits could still be filed electronically on that first day the window was opened.

In recent years, a growing number of victims of sexual assault and abuse have been coming forward with the stories of their abuse.

But for the many victims who were assaulted years or even decades ago, the statute of limitations for filing civil or criminal lawsuits has long since passed.

Fortunately, several states in the U.S. are making changes to their laws surrounding sexual assault litigation filed by child sexual abuse survivors. New Jersey is one of these states.

There are five Catholic dioceses in New Jersey, which are preparing themselves for a potential slew of serious allegations. The clergy sexual abuse scandal has made waves all across the nation, and at least 20 dioceses have so far been caused to file for bankruptcy.



Cardinal Joseph Tobin, who is head of the archdiocese of Newark, said that he has “no idea” what will happen now that the statute of limitations has been set aside for this upcoming two-year window.

The clergy scandal has rocked public perception of the Catholic Church. In a Nov. 22 interview with North Jersey, Tobin said that the Church is working to rebuild that trust with Catholics within the archdiocese.

Part of this effort to rebuild trust is transparency, he said, including having pastors talk about the abuse scandal to their congregations, as well as making information like financial audits publicly accessible.

The process of regaining the people’s trust “is not easy or instantaneous,” Tobin told North Jersey. “We have to act like we’re trustworthy.”

The five New Jersey dioceses reportedly released a list of the names of 188 clergy members, including priests and deacons, who they said had been leveled with credible accusations of the sexual assault of children. The dioceses have collectively established a compensation fund for settlement awards for victims who do not pursue litigation. The compensation program opened in New Jersey in June, and by Nov. 22 had paid settlement amounts to 202 victims amounting to around $4.7 million. The deadline for these claims is the end of the year, Dec. 31, 2019.



If you or someone you love has been a victim of sexual abuse or assault, even if that abuse took place years or decades ago, you may be able to join this lawsuit investigation.

Join a Free New Jersey Catholic Church Abuse Lawsuit Investigation

If you were sexually abused by a Catholic priest in New Jersey, you now have two options for pursuing compensation. Learn more by filling out the form on this page for a FREE case evaluation by New Jersey Catholic Church abuse lawyers.

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This article is not legal advice. It is presented
for informational purposes only.

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