New Jersey’s Childhood Sexual Abuse Statute of Limitations: What You Need to Know

New Jersey has made significant strides to address the issue of childhood sexual abuse, recognizing the lifelong impact it can have on survivors. One of the most important changes has been the expansion of New Jersey’s childhood sexual abuse statute of limitations (SOL) – the time limit within which a victim can file a lawsuit.

Understanding the Statute of Limitations
The SOL is a legal deadline that varies depending on the nature of the claim. It’s crucial to understand these deadlines, as failing to file a claim within the specified time can bar one from pursuing legal action.

Victims can file lawsuits against their abusers up to the age of 55 or within 7 years from the date they acknowledge the abuse. This provides a substantial window compared to many other jurisdictions, reflecting an understanding of the often-delayed recognition and reporting of childhood sexual abuse.

The changes were significantly motivated by the need to address the extended and often undisclosed trauma associated with childhood sexual abuse. This legislative shift was part of a broader societal acknowledgment of sexual abuse crises, such as those revealed in major institutional scandals.

Why These Changes Matter
The expansion of New Jersey’s childhood sexual abuse statute of limitation is a crucial step toward justice and accountability for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. It gives survivors a longer window of opportunity to seek compensation for their pain and suffering.

Research shows that a significant percentage of child sexual abuse occurs through organizations that serve youth and children, including schools, churches, sports clubs, and others. According to a 2004 U.S. Department of Education report, an estimated 1 in 10 students will experience school employee sexual misconduct by the time they graduate from high school. Predators seek employment with these organizations because it allows them access to children and the opportunity to groom possible victims. Of note, rampant sexual abuse by the Catholic Church in our region was revealed on August 13, 2018, uncovering decades of allegations of child sex abuse at the hands of more than 300 priests. Some of the most infamous cases of child sexual abuse have taken place through youth-serving organizations, including the Catholic Church, Penn State University and Jerry Sandusky’s Foundation, Boy Scouts of America, US Swim Clubs, and public schools across the country.

Clearly, organizations in New Jersey serving children and youth have a duty to take reasonable, necessary and appropriate steps to protect children and youth from child sexual predators. In 2018, the New Jersey legislature passed the popularly named “Pass the Trash” law, which required more strenuous background checks relating to child abuse and sexual misconduct for school teachers and staff at educational facilities across the state. It was enacted to address concerns about school districts allowing employees accused of child abuse to resign quietly, without disclosing the allegations to future employers. This practice could enable individuals with a history of child abuse to continue working with children in other school districts.

Since the “pass the trash” law went into effect, over a dozen teachers, school administrators, or school employees have been arrested and convicted on various sex-related crimes involving students. Some of the offenses that educators have been charged with or convicted for include:

  • Rape
  • Sexual assault
  • Criminal sexual contact
  • Possession or creation of child pornography
  • Endangering the welfare of a child
  • Luring
  • Official misconduct

These charges stem from a wide variety of conduct committed by these individuals, including installing hidden cameras in bathrooms, photographing students, sexually assaulting students as young as elementary school age, forcing or luring students to perform sexual acts, sending nude photos to students, or engaging in sexual relationships with students.

If you are a survivor of sexual abuse contact us today for a confidential consultation to discuss your situation and explore your legal avenues.

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We may be a small firm in a small town, but our dedication to you is immense. Being small, we can provide our clients with more personal service. From your first visit until your case is resolved it will be evident how much we care.

We have vast legal experience and have been zealous advocates for all of our clients for many years. Although most cases can be settled out of court, knowing that you have an experienced trial attorney in your corner will give you the confidence you need to get the best result possible, in or out of the courtroom.

Kevin P. McCann of Chance & McCann, LLC is a Certified Civil Trial Attorney. The Board on Attorney Certification was established by the Supreme Court of New Jersey in 1980 for the purpose of helping consumers find attorneys who have a recognized level of competence in particular fields of law. Attorneys may be designated by the Supreme Court as “certified attorneys” if they: are able to demonstrate sufficient levels of experience, education, knowledge and skill in a specific area of law or practice; have passed a rigorous examination; and have been recognized by their peers as having sufficient skills and reputation in the designated specialty.

The Supreme Court, through recommendation by the Board, currently certifies attorneys in five areas: civil trial law, criminal trial law, matrimonial law, workers’ compensation law, and municipal court law.

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