Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver Sued for Sexual Abuse

A lawsuit filed late last year in Canada’s British Columbia Supreme Court against Vancouver’s Roman Catholic Archdiocese is once again drawing attention to the sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. The civil lawsuit, while filed under Canadian law rather than U.S. or New York law, raises questions about whether the Church is responsible for its priests’ sexual actions, and how long a sexual abuse victim can wait before coming forward with his claims.

Vancouver Lawsuit Calls Out Roman Catholic Church’s Child Sexual Abuse

A lawsuit filed in Canada against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver is the latest in a string of international criminal charges and legal cases against priests, bishops, and the Catholic Church as a whole. The Vancouver complaint, filed anonymously by “John Doe” on October 23, 2020, alleges that Father John Kilty, Parish pastor of the North Vancouver Holy Trinity Parish, sexually assaulted the plaintiff when he was six years old. According to the suit, Kilty groped and touched the plaintiff sexually, drugged him, removed his clothing, and took sexual actions against him. Kilty is also said to have psychologically groomed and manipulated the plaintiff.

The complaint also named Raymond Clavin, a former Christian Brothers coach and employee of the Catholic Independent Schools of Vancouver (CISVA) as a defendant. It says he threatened the plaintiff with harm, removed his clothing, and performed sexual actions against him.

Decades-Old Sexual Abuse Claims Name Dead Priest as Defendant

The events that were described in the complaint happened in 1974 and 1975. Father Kilty’s estate is being sued because he had passed away before it was filed. Usually, civil lawsuits for physical and sexual assault need to be filed within a few years of the incident. This is called a Statute of Limitations. However, many jurisdictions, including New York State, make exceptions for child sexual abuse.

New York’s Child Victims Act extends the statute of limitations in both criminal cases and civil lawsuits involving sexual abuse, incest, or child pornography. Had the Vancouver lawsuit been filed in this state, “John Doe” would have until age 55 to raise his complaint. While this law does not apply to Canadian lawsuits, it appears that the British Colombia Limitations Act does not apply to claims of sexual assault.

Is the Roman Catholic Archdiocese Responsible for Its Priest’s Actions?

In addition to the Father and the Catholic school coach, John Doe named the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver (RCAV) itself as a defendant in the lawsuit. The complaint said:

“At all times material to the abuse, the RCAV and/or the CISVA were complicit in a culture of entrenched clericalism that enabled perpetrators of sexual abuse to continue to commit their grievous crimes, and wherein witnesses, complainants and whistleblowers were silenced.”

It seeks to hold the Catholic Church itself for the behavior of its priests and employees.

The Church certainly has known about sexual abuse allegations among its ranks before. In 2019, the Archdiocese there had identified 36 priests in British Columbia, turned them over to non-religious officials for investigation. This included included complaints of sexual abuse in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as other priests who were serving in the ministry at the time. It isn’t clear if Father Kilty was among them. Closer to home, in 2018, a Pennsylvania Grand Jury reported 300 “predator priests” who had sexually abused over 1,000 child victims dating back to 1947.

But can the Church be held accountable for its priests’ actions directly? Again, Canadian law may not be the same as the law here in the U.S. and New York. In the U.S., generally speaking, civil lawsuits can be filed against employers based on the employer’s negligent hiring, training, or supervision of the abuser, as well as failures to investigate or act on complaints or warning signs. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that employment discrimination laws don’t prevent Catholic schools from firing employees for discriminatory reasons. However, there isn’t clear law about whether the “ministerial exception” extends to a religious employer who fails to investigate claims of sexual harassment and abuse by those ministers.

At Eisenberg & Baum, LLP, our clergy sexual abuse attorneys know how to work with the law, and employers, religious and otherwise to get the victims of sexual abuse the relief they need. We can negotiate with religious institutions and, when necessary, fight back against ministerial exception defenses to make sure your rights are protected, and your needs met. Contact Eisenberg & Baum, LLP, today to talk to an attorney.

David Haas Hymns Banned by Catholic Churches After Sexual Harassment Accusations

Sometimes it doesn’t take a lawsuit to get real relief as a victim of sexual harassment and sex abuse. The multiple victims of Catholic composer David Haas demonstrated that sometimes a victim’s advocate can make a big impact even when legal issues may stand between the victims and the courthouse. As a result of their advocacy, Haas’s hymns have been banned from Catholic churches in 10 archdioceses nationwide.

Almost 40 Women Raised their Voices Against Catholic Composer David Haas

In music, there is a big difference between a single voice singing a solo and a chorus of harmonious voices. While one singer can make an impact, a choir in full voice can shake the building. The same is true when advocating for social changes. One woman or man speaking about one incident may get some attention, but when dozens of women come together to tell the same story, people listen. The survivor advocacy group Into Account has assembled a chorus of 38 women, all of whom allege that they were sexually harassed or abused by religious composer David Haas. According to Susan Bruhl, one of the women represented by Into Account:

“David has this uncanny knack of finding girls who don’t have fathers at home, who may have come from an abusive background or were neglected.”

A New York Times article told the stories of six of those women (four anonymously). According to their stories, Haas approached several of these women early in their church music careers, sometimes as teenagers. They accuse Haas of:

  • Buying alcohol for an 18 year old girl and inviting her to his hotel room because “you’re a woman now.”
  • Grooming an employee at his music summer camp and treating her like a servant
  • Sending inappropriate Facebook messages to a parish music director
  • Pushing a woman against a wall
  • Forcibly grabbing, groping, and kissing several women
  • Pressuring an 18 year old workshop attendee into committing sexual acts

One of his victims, now a cantor in a Catholic parish, says she suffered a panic attack after the incident when she had to sing one of Haas’s songs during a church Mass.

Why Court Might Not be an Option for the Haas Victims

While the ladies’ stories are compelling there are a number of reasons they may have trouble raising sexual harassment claims in court. As the New York Times notes, no civil or criminal charges have been filed against Mr. Haas. That may have to do with how long ago the incidents occurred, interactions falling outside the formal employer-employee structure, and problems holding religious leaders accountable for workplace discrimination and harassment.

Compelling Stories, Told Too Late

The earliest formal sexual harassment complaint against has dates back to 1987, when the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis received notice of “unwanted sexual advances toward a young adult woman.” Ms Bruhl’s complaints date back even earlier, to 1984.

In many states, the statute of limitations for complaints like these may only be a few short years. Here in New York, it used to be that child sex assault victims had to file their claims within 5 years of turning 18.  However, more recently, the New York Child Victims Act has allowed young women and men time to mature and heal before heading to court. These complaints can now be filed anytime before the child victim turns 55 years old.

Catholic Composer, Not Employer

Another legal challenge for some of David Haas’s victims comes in defining their relationship. Under federal law, an organization like the Catholic Church only needs to respond to sexual harassment complaints involving employees. But David Haas was not formally employed by the Church. As a composer, his working relationship with parish cantors and music directors was more like an independent vendor. That difference could block federal complaints filed under Title VII. However, the New York State Human Rights Law is broader. Since 2018, the law has protected contractors, vendors, consultants, and anyone providing services in a business, not just its employees.

Catholic Music Performer and the Ministerial Exception

Perhaps the biggest hurdle for those seeking a lawsuit against David Haas comes from his role within the religious organization of the Catholic Church. Earlier this year, the United States Supreme Court ruled that teachers were “ministers” for the purposes of applying federal employment discrimination protections. It prevented the former teachers from suing their Catholic school employers based on the “ministerial exception” to Title VII and the First Amendment. While David Hass does not appear to be an ordained minister, under the court’s decision, the ministerial exception applies to anyone who has the responsibility of teaching religion and participating in religious activities. That could apply to a writer and performer of Catholic songs like Haas.

Victim Advocacy Prompts Catholic Archdioceses to Ban Popular Hymns

The victims of David Haas’s sexual harassment and assault aren’t letting legal obstacles stop them from holding him accountable. Described as a “rock star in the Catholic liturgical realm,” Haas, has long been able to make up his own rules. For example, after his ex-wife divorced him in 1995, she faced retaliation in the liturgical music world, even though she too had been a victim of his sexual assault as a teenager.

In spite of all this, the victims are still pressuring the Catholic Church for change. They emailed a letter to church leaders, publishers, and liturgists explaining what they faced. As a result, 10 archdioceses from across the country have banned their churches from using David Haas songs. Liturgical publishers OCP and GIA Publications have cut ties with him, and his music has been pulled from a Mennonite hymnal called “Voices Together.” In addition, his local archdiocese now prohibits him from performing at Masses and other events, and it has not renewed his letter of suitability, which would allow him to perform elsewhere within the Church.

These steps show that even when a lawsuit isn’t the right option, victims of sexual harassment and abuse can get their stories heard and sometimes even be compensated for what they have suffered. At Eisenberg & Baum, LLP, we have sexual harassment and sex abuse attorneys who know how to approach these claims from all sides: legal, regulatory, negotiation, and publication. We can help you consider the strength of your legal case in New York and federal courts, and what other options you may have to make your voice heard. Contact Eisenberg & Baum, LLP, today to talk to an attorney.

Cheer Star Lawsuit Brings to Light Sex Abuse in Competitive Cheerleading

The general public may think of cheerleading as a “sexy” activity involving attractive women and the strong men who hold them in the air. However, competitive cheerleading is an active and intensely competitive sport involving children as young as 5 years old. Now Cheer star Jerry Harris has been federally charged and civilly sued for sex abuse after admitting to soliciting pornographic images from members of his team. The lawsuit is shining a light on an industry whose record of responding to sex abuse complaints is shady at best.

Competitive Cheerleading Isn’t About Being “Sexy”

The idea of cheerleading brings to mind young women in short skirts and pom-poms standing on the sidelines of a high school football or basketball game rooting for their team. However, competitive cheerleading is an athletic sport unto itself. According to the USA Today, more than 3.7 million people participate in cheerleading competitions every year — from age 5 through college — including both boys and girls. At its highest levels, competitive cheerleading involves college athletes performing aerial gymnastics on nationally televised competitions.

The world of competitive cheerleading has been given a spotlight by the popular web-streaming service, Netflix. Its documentary series Cheer, released in January 2020, followed Navarro College’s cheerleading team through a year of competition. But now that spotlight has revealed some ugly secrets hiding in the sport’s shadows.

Jerry Harris Admits Soliciting Pornography from Teenage Cheerleaders

On Thursday, September 17, 2020, Jerry Harris, celebrity youth cheerleading coach and star of the Cheer series was arrested by the FBI and charged with producing child pornography. The victims of his sexual abuse were 10 to 15 minors, including 14-year-old twin brothers who were on Harris’s cheerleading squad. Charlie and Sam (whose last name is anonymous) reported that Harris had put them through more a year of sexual harassment, both online through Snapchat, and at cheer competitions. The pattern of sexual abuse began when he was 19 and they were only 13 years old.

Based on the twins’ reports, the FBI began an investigation that revealed Harris had solicited explicit imagery from 10-15 known minors, had sex with a 15-year-old during a cheerleading competition, and paid a 17-year-old for nude photos. Harris, now 21 years old, has admitted his involvement. The boys’ mother has now filed a lawsuit against Harris, as well as against the athletic company Varsity Spirit, which runs the cheer competitions, USA Cheer, and the United States All Star Federation (USASF).

A History of Ignoring Sex Abuse Complaints in Competitive Cheer

The two organizational defendants are responsible for regulating the sport of competitive cheerleading. The lawsuit alleges that they have been ignoring complaints of sex abuse in competitive cheer, and not doing enough to protect the young men and women who compete in the sport.

That complaint is supported by the USA Today’s investigation of competitive cheerleading published earlier this year. According to the report, the USASF and USA Cheer had nearly 180 people affiliated with their youth cheerleading organizations who had been charged or convicted of sexual misconduct involving minors. That included more than 140 convicted sex abusers and 74 registered sex offenders including choreographers, coaches, and gym owners. The report said that as of mid-July, the governing bodies had just 21 individuals on its public-facing list of suspensions and bans — a list designed to warn parents and gym owners about potential threats to their children. However, during the two months of the USA Today’s investigation, that list grew to 118 names, mostly due to the newspaper’s efforts to identify sex offenders and child molesters associated with the organization.

USA Cheer Policy Protections Only Go So Far

The lawsuit against Harris, USASF and USA Cheer says that, “a systemically exploitative environment that has been bubbling within the All-Star Cheer community for years.” Harris is said to have taken advantage of that environment. According to Dana Moore Storms, a former cheerleading coach and cheer-mom, who spoke to Teen Vogue about the lawsuit:

“I think that the culture of the sport kind of created an unfortunate perfect breeding ground for children to be taken advantage of. . . . The focus at cheer competitions with security has been more [about] who is walking in the door than what the people inside the door are doing.”

USA Cheer released a statement saying it “takes any allegation of sexual misconduct very seriously” and does “everything possible to safeguard our kids.” However, the lawsuit alleges that USASF, USA Cheer, and Varsity Spirit were informed of Harris’s sexual harassment, exploitation, and molestation of children in the past, and failed to investigate the claims or monitor his activities. Nancy Hogshead-Makar, the CEO of Champion Women, told Teen Vogue:

“‘It’s like any other youth-serving organization,’ she says. ‘Wherever you find two ingredients, you’re going to find sexual harassment and abuse. One is children. The other is power.’ Putting policies in place to protect minors, and enforcing those policies, is ‘expensive, it’s time consuming, it costs relationships and strife within an organization. But it has to be done.’”

The competitive cheerleading lawsuit, if it prevails, will demonstrate that having the policies in place is not enough. Organizations like USA Cheer must be held accountable for doing the work of enforcing them to protect student athletes from sexual abuse by their coaches, gym owners, and other adults.

At Eisenberg & Baum, LLP, we know how ard it can be to come forward and report sex abuse when it happens, especially in the context of teenage athletes. If you have been abused because of your participation in a sport such as competitive cheerleading, we will help you get the justice and compensation you need to move on. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

Secondary Charges Show a Pattern of Sexual Assault for Actor Cuba Gooding Jr.

An isolated case of inappropriate sexual touching may not carry a high criminal consequence. But often, these criminal charges are a glimpse into a pattern of sexual assault against a number of victims. That appears to be the case for actor Cuba Gooding Jr., whose criminal trial was delayed when more sexual assault charges came to light. Find out what victims can do to stop these patterns before they become even more serious.

Cuba Gooding Jr. Faces Secondary Sexual Assault Charges

Cuba Gooding Jr. is best known as an Oscar-winning actor with roles in everything from Jerry Maguire to Radio. But in June 2019, Mr. Gooding added a New York criminal court to his list of appearances. The actor was charged with sexual abuse and forcible touching in the third degree. This is a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of one year in jail.

Prosecutors in the case said that on Sunday June 16, 2019, Mr. Gooding groped a woman’s breast at the Magic Hour Rooftop Bar at the Moxy NYC Times Square hotel in Manhattan. The victim in the case was a student at New York University. Gooding denied the allegations and was scheduled to appear for trial in October 2019.

Secondary Charges Show a Pattern of Sexual Assault

What started out as a one-time incident quickly appeared to be part of a pattern of sexual assault. Even back in June, the police in the case said they were investigating a second groping allegation from years earlier. The victim in that case came forward after she saw news reports about the first charges. There was some question at the time as to whether the secondary claims were too old to go to court, but it seems the prosecutors found a way to make the charges stick.

On Thursday, October 10, 2019, the state prosecutors announced that a new charge had been filed. This new charge delayed Gooding’s trial on the June 2019 incident, and moved the case from Criminal Court to State Supreme Court. This is a higher-level court reserved for higher severity crimes, suggesting that Gooding’s pattern of sexual assault may have included more severe forms of misconduct.

Famous Actor Blames the Victim in Sexual Assault Charges

Mr. Gooding’s attorneys have fought hard against the sexual assault charges. Even though the prosecutors were able to present a video of the incident, Gooding’s legal team has said it never happened. They presented two witnesses who say they were there and didn’t see it, and have even claimed that the victim “is predisposed to make false allegations against the defendant.” To paraphrase: “It didn’t happen. She’s lying.”

Sexual Assault Victims Find Strength in Numbers

These strategies of denial and victim blaming are all too common in sexual assault cases. Defendants will often try to point to the victim’s own behavior or personality to explain what they want the jury to believe happened. While these tactics can sometimes be convincing in “he-said, she-said” cases, they don’t work as well when victims work together to show a pattern of sexual assault by the same person.

That may be why Gooding’s legal team was quick to deny the secondary charges as a stalling tactic. Sexual assault victims find strength in numbers when they come together to show how the same person has taken advantage of several people in similar ways. Whether they are calling out sexual harassment in the workplace, or casting light on a long-hidden pattern of sexual abuse, these sexual assault survivors can help lift each other up and shore up weaknesses in one another’s case.

At Eisenberg & Baum, LLP, our sexual abuse attorneys know how to establish and prove patterns of sexual abuse. We work with our clients to get their stories heard and identify others who faced the same treatment. If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual abuse, contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

Survivors of Childhood Sexual Assault Face Reliving Trauma Online

Childhood sexual assault is a crime that carries a lifetime of consequences for its victims. The physical, mental, and emotional trauma can affect the survivors of these crimes on into adulthood. Now, as the first generation of these survivors are coming of age, they find themselves facing a new challenge: being forced to relive their trauma when images and videos find their way back online.

Child Pornography Videos Resurface Decades Later

The creation and distribution of child pornography is a serious crime that includes severe penalties for those convicted. One reason those penalties must be so steep is because once something is posted on the Internet, it is almost impossible to remove completely. Some survivors of childhood sexual assaults are finding that years, sometimes decades later, those photos and videos have re-emerged as prosecutors across the country have seized mobile phones, computers, and cloud storage of pedophiles.

A recent investigation by the New York Times into the effects of online storage and social media on the survivors of child sexual assault. The newspaper tells the story of two sisters, who choose to remain anonymous because they fear child molesters and other sexual predators seeking them out:

“Ten years ago, their father did the unthinkable: He posted explicit photos and videos on the internet of them, just 7 and 11 at the time. Many captured violent assaults in their Midwestern home, including him and another man drugging and raping the 7-year-old.

“The men are now in prison, but in a cruel consequence of the digital era, their crimes are finding new audiences. The two sisters are among the first generation of child sexual abuse victims whose anguish has been preserved on the internet, seemingly forever.”

In their interview, the sisters explain that online predators sometimes stalk people in the photos and videos they download. Even though the sisters are now 17 and 21 years old, they continue to relive their trauma whenever a man looks at them or asks, “Have I seen a picture of you when you were a kid?” They fear that their trauma will be there forever since the video of their childhood sexual assault is online for all to see.

Tech Companies Refuse to Fight Back Against Pedephilia on Their Platforms

Perhaps the worst part of this story is the fact that the tech industry has the tools to remove child pornography and other illegal and illicit content from its servers, but it refuses to use it. In 2009, Microsoft and Professor Hany Farid, now at the University of California, Berkeley invented a software known as PhotoDNA. It allows computers to compare photos against databases of known illegal images and flag illicit content for removal. You can see how PhotoDNA works in the New York Times article on their investigation.

But even though tech companies use this software for facial recognition, malware detection, and copyright enforcement, many refuse to apply the same software to stop the storage and distribution of child pornography:

  • Amazon does not even look for the imagery on its cloud storage
  • Apple does not scan its cloud storage and encrypts its messaging app, making detection nearly impossible
  • Dropbox, Google, and Microsoft scan for illegal images when they are shared, but not when they are uploaded
  • Snapchat and Yahoo look for photos but not videos
  • Facebook does scan its platforms, but does not use all available databases to detect material

“‘Each company is coming up with their own balance of privacy versus safety, and they don’t want to do so in public,’ said Alex Stamos, who served as chief of information security at both Facebook and Yahoo. ‘These decisions actually have a humongous impact on children’s safety.’”

New York Laws Allows Courts to Order Removal of Pornographic Images

But there is some good news for those survivors of childhood sexual assault living in New York State. New laws passed in 2019 give them the tools to take on the tech industry and get their images removed, even years after the fact. Taken together, the state’s revenge porn law and the Child Victims Act create an opportunity to enforce their privacy even against tech companies who value their consumers’ privacy over the victims of sexual assault.

The state’s law against the “dissemination or publication of an intimate image” went into effect on February 25, 2019. The law includes a private right to go to court and ask a judge for a court order requiring any website within its jurisdiction to permanently remove images or video from its sites and servers.

The New York State Child Victims Act, passed into law on January 24, 2019, gives those survivors more time to file their claims and get the relief they need. Civil lawsuits related to child sexual assault can be filed anytime until the victim turns 55 years old. There is even a one-year grace period for those whose cases are too old to fall within the statute. Taken together, these laws give survivors of child sexual assault the ability to fight back against the pedophiles that stalk them and the tech companies who shield those bad actors from justice.

At Eisenberg & Baum, our sexual abuse attorneys to stand beside child victims and their families against their abusers and the social media companies. We know how to use all the tools the law provides to get those images removed and protect their identity. We can help you file a claim and receive the compensation you deserve and the injunctive action you need to stop reliving your trauma online. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

When and Where Should Your Sexual Harassment or Assault Case be Filed?

When your work takes you on the road it can sometimes create uncomfortable or even dangerous situations between coworkers. When a hotel stay or a trip overseas for work turns into a case of sexual harassment or assault, it may be hard to tell when and where the case should be filed.

Matt Lauer, the Sochi Olympics, and New York Sexual Harassment Claims

In 2017, long-time NBC news anchor Matt Lauer was fired from his position after the company received a complaint raising sexual harassment and abuse allegations against him. Brooke Nevils, a former NBC producer, said that Lauer raped her in a hotel room while they were covering the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. She says that she was too drunk to give consent to his sexual advances, and that she refused his requests for the particular sexual act requested. Ms. Nevils’s attorney said that when the news team returned to New York, pressure and fear that she would lose her job at NBC kept her from reporting the sexual harassment to their mutual employer. Instead, their sexual involvement continued back in the states.

Then in 2017, Nevils and a number of other women began interviewing with various news outlets anonymously to voice their concerns against the host of the Today show and other NBC staples. When the network learned of those interviews, it began its own investigation. Then Nevils’s attorney filed a formal complaint with NBC on November 27, 2019, and two days later, Lauer was fired.

Where Would Lauer’s Sexual Assault Case Be Filed?

Now, Nevils’s story has shown up again — this time in the book Catch and Release by Ronan Farrow. In the wake of recent changes in the way New York handles sexual assault cases, some are asking whether the book is a lead in to a lawsuit. As of yet, no federal or state case has been filed.

Some of that may be because it isn’t clear whether New York would have the authority to hear the case. In general, criminal and civil cases resulting from rape, sexual abuse, or other assaults must be filed in the location where the act occurred. Since the specific rape allegations happened in Sochi, Russia, it would be the Russian authorities who would have to file charges. Even if Nevils were to make a report with the New York police, they would be required to send the information overseas for prosecutors there to deal with.

However, there is some possibility that Lauer’s coercive and non-consensual sexual activity didn’t stop at the U.S. border. If Nevils were to raise objections that her continued relationship with the news anchor resulted in additional sexual abuse here at home, that behavior could still result in a civil lawsuit under the state’s new extended window to file a case.

Can a New York Court Address Nevils’s Claims of Sexual Harassment and Abuse?

Where any potential lawsuits must be filed is only one half of the issue. The question of when that case must be filed is just as important. Every civil cause of action (right to sue) comes with an expiration date. You only have so long after an offense occurs to resolve your issues or take it to court. These limits are called statutes of limitations.

When the victim of sexual harassment and abuse is an adult at the time of the incident, the New York statute of limitations for filing a civil lawsuit against the abuser is just 3 years. In Nevils’s case, NBC made a reasonable response to Nevils’s complaint of sexual harassment by a coworker. However, if it had not, she would only have had a few short months to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

The Sochi incident is said to have happened during the 2014 Winter Olympics. That means under state law, Nevils would have needed to act no later than 2017 under New York law. However, if their relationship continued to meet the criteria for sexual harassment or abuse after the news team returned to the states, Ms. Nevils may still have time to make her case.

Ms. Nevils’s story shows that it can sometimes be difficult to tell when and where your sexual harassment and abuse lawsuit needs to be filed. It also shows how waiting too long to come forward can cut off your right to go to your employer, the EEOC, or the courts to get the remedies you deserve and to protect your professional career.

If you have been the victim of sexual harassment or abuse, don’t wait until it is too late. At Eisenberg & Baum, LLP, we have a team of attorneys who know how to fight back against sex abuse and sexual harassment. We will help you tell your story and get the justice and compensation you need before the time runs out. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

New York Gives Hope to Child Victims of Abuse and Pornography

The New York Child Victims Act took effect on August 14, 2019. The extended time limits and one-year grace period built into the law give the young victims of abuse, incest, and pornography time to heal without missing their chance in civil court. As sex abuse and sexual harassment attorneys, we can help make sure our clients see justice done.

In this blog, I will discuss how the Child Victims Act gives the victims of child abuse, incest, and child pornography an opportunity to file civil claims against their abusers on their own timetable. I will explain how important these extended time limits are to the victims of childhood trauma. And I will explain how the sex abuse and sexual harassment attorney Adriana Alcalde can help you and your family protect your rights.

New York’s Old Law Made Parents Gatekeepers to Child Victims’ Cases

New York state used to have one of the strictest statutes of limitations on sex abuse in the country. This law limited the ability of state prosecutors and civil lawyers to seek justice on behalf of the state’s youngest victims. With only a 5-year window after the child turned 18, most cases depended on a young victim’s parents taking action. The trouble was, in many cases, they simply didn’t know what had happened to their children.

For example, New York Catholic dioceses have released the names of hundreds of “predator priests” who targeted children within their own congregations for sexual abuse. The church on the local and regional levels has only just come forward with these names, even though some incidents were reported years ago. If a parent of the victim of one of these predator priests didn’t know about their behavior, they may have overlooked signs the child had been the victim of sexual assault. By the time a young victim learned about his or her own right to sue, it may have been too late.

New York Child Victims Act Gives Young Victims Decades to Heal

But then, in January 2019, the New York state legislature finally passed a law relaxing the time limits and giving more sex abuse victims access to the courts. The Child Victims Act extends the statute of limitations for criminal and civil cases. It takes what was once one of the strictest laws and turns it into one of the nation’s most forgiving time limits.

Criminal cases keep that 5-year time limit, but now, the clock won’t start running until the victim turns 23 or the case is reported to the proper authorities. That gives the victims of these cases time to get through college and more before they have to worry about coming forward.

The time limit on civil cases involving sex abuse, incest, or child pornography with a child victim are even longer. The victims in these cases have until age 55 to file their claim. In addition, the statute includes a one-year window for anyone to file a child victim lawsuit, no matter how old. It also allows for old cases to be reinstated if they were dismissed for being filed too late or without the proper notice.

Long filing deadlines are essential in these kinds of sex abuse cases. The victims of these traumatic crimes often take years or even decades to come to terms with what has happened to them and heal from the emotional wounds they suffered. In many cases, they require the help of therapists, family, and support systems to overcome the power imbalance between abuser and abused and finally stand up for their rights. The old, shorter statutes of limitations created a terrible choice for the victims of these crimes: wait until you’re ready and possibly miss your chance at justice, or take the stand too soon and risk retraumatizing yourself in the process. Under the new statute, child victims will be able to heal first without having to give up their rights.

Sex Abuse Attorney Adriana Alcalde Helps Child Victims Fight Back

When the time is right to take the matter to court, the team at Eisenberg and Baum is here to help. We operate on the philosophy that no one should get away with sexual abuse.  Attorney Adriana Alcalde and a team of attorneys and staff fight back against sex abuse and sexual harassment. Alcalde has over 15 years of experience helping the victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, police misconduct, human trafficking, and child pornography. She is a former prosecutor with experience in the Sex Crimes, Special Victims, Domestic Violence, and Crimes against Children units. Alcalde has tried over 150 cases, including many that got significant media attention.

All that experience allows Adriana Alcalde and the rest of the Eisenberg & Baum sexual abuse attorneys to stand beside child victims and their families in the courthouse and during press interviews, giving them the chance they need to tell their story and see justice done. Whether your loved one was targeted 5 days ago or 5 years ago, she can help them decide when and how to file a claim and receive the compensation they deserve for the harm they have suffered. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.