NY let childhood sex abuse victims sue; 9,000 went to court – News Vibe24

    NY let childhood sex abuse victims sue; 9,000 went to court - Times of India
    ALBANY: For two years, New York has temporarily suspended its usual civil litigation time limit to allow victims of child sexual abuse to sue churches, hospitals, schools, camps, scout groups and other institutions and individuals responsible for the possibility of pedophiles or turning a blind eye to injustice.
    This window closes on Saturday after more than 9,000 lawsuits were filed, a catastrophe whose impact could be felt for many years.
    Four of the state’s Roman Catholic dioceses have filed for bankruptcy, in part as a result of legal disputes over the state’s Child Victims Act. Thousands of new complaints against priests, teachers, scout leaders and other authorities have intensified the already harsh light on childcare institutions.
    Survivors of the abuse were also given a way out of their trauma and an opportunity to be held accountable, which was once considered lost.
    “This, ironically, was a very healing experience for me on a personal level,” said Carol Dupre, 74, who sued the Roman Catholic Diocese in Rochester, saying she had been abused by a priest as a teenager in the early 1960s. and typed cards after church services.
    She put the facts “in a warehouse in her mind”, but it still haunted her for decades. When it came time to sue, it was an easy decision.
    “The idea of ​​dealing with it, discussing it and dealing with it leaves me internally free.”
    New York is among many states that have established in recent years windows that allow people to sue for child abuse, no matter how long it has been. Similar windows opened in New Jersey and California.
    Usually, the courts set deadlines for the lawsuit due to the difficulty of conducting a fair trial for incidents that occurred many years ago. Witnesses die or are removed. The files are lost. Memories fade. But lawmakers believed that despite these obstacles, victims deserved a chance at justice and could now have the courage to talk about things they have kept to themselves for many years.
    The one-year New York window was originally scheduled to expire on August 14, 2020, but has been extended twice due to concerns that the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent court disturbances are preventing survivors from appearing.
    In addition to the extension, online deposits will be accepted until midnight on Saturday, according to a state court spokesman.
    The tsunami of disputes surprised even some of the lawyers who regularly work with alleged victims of abuse.
    “We thought we might have a hundred cases or a few hundred cases and here we are,” said attorney James Mars, whose company has filed about 800 cases. “Unfortunately, we miscalculated the interest there.”
    Plaintiffs’ attorneys said potential clients were still approaching as the deadline approached, some gaining strength after seeing stories of others filing lawsuits. Attorney Jeff Anderson said some survivors waited until the last minute because of the difficulty of getting ahead.
    And some will not have the strength to appear before the window closes, said lawyer Mitchell Garabedian.
    “The announced court deadline encourages many victims and survivors to show up,” Garabedian said. “But for other victims and survivors, it makes no sense.”
    Some have struggled to expose the old wounds in public.
    “It was not an easy decision,” said Donna Aston, a 56-year-old Rochester woman who filed a lawsuit in June alleging that she was abused as a teenager by the music director at a Baptist church. “You have to dig up and relive the trauma you had when you were young.”
    She married her husband at the age of 19 after what the lawsuit said was manipulation, grooming and abuse. The church disputed the allegations.
    “I had children with him and I had to make sure he was okay with them and that he was okay with what I was doing in front of me,” he said.
    Thousands of cases filed in New York concern religious institutions, according to court figures.
    Experts warn that it is too early to assess the responsibility for church-related entities in the state. Although Anderson, who calls New York the “main battlefield,” expects it to be in the billions of dollars.
    The Rockville Episcopal Center in Long Island reported the “serious” financial burden of litigation when it became the largest bankruptcy diocese in the United States last October. Half of the eight Roman Catholic dioceses in New York have filed for bankruptcy, starting in the Rochester Diocese in 2019.
    “Any financial pain the Church suffers as a result of this crisis, compared to the changing lives of survivors,” Dennis Pust, executive director of the Catholic Congress of New York, said in an email.
    Pust said the bishops are now focusing on resolving civil claims in a way that satisfies those affected by maintaining the church’s charitable, educational and sacramental ministry.
    Bankruptcies allow dioceses to consolidate victim claims and negotiate with plaintiffs as a single order.
    For example, the Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy protection in February 2020 and last month reached a $ 850 million deal with lawyers representing tens of thousands of victims of child sexual abuse.
    Lawyers see the closing of the window as the beginning of another intense phase as individual cases are considered and bankruptcies proceed. The suspension of the new deposits of the Law on Child Victims could lead to decisions, because the accused will now know how many claims they face.
    “It is still early in the process because the window is not closed yet,” Anderson said. “And once that happens, we will see more progress.”


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