New Law Gives Child Sex Abuse Victims a Chance at Justice

A New York law opens the way for new sexual abuse lawsuits.

Posted Aug 14, 2019

The dark underbelly of society—child sexual abuse—has long been familiar to therapists who work with children and adult survivors of child sexual abuse. As the result of a new law in New York, the problem of rampant child sexual abuse is coming out from the shadows into the daylight of public awareness, with hundreds of allegations against the Catholic church, the Boy Scouts, and the late Jeffrey Epstein.

The New York State law that goes into effect today, August 14, gives adult victims of childhood sex abuse in New York one year to bring civil lawsuits against their alleged abusers and the institutions that may have allowed the abuse. The state's landmark "Child Victims Act" includes a provision that lifts for one year a statute of limitations that had barred older complaints and which critics said was too restrictive. The law is expected to lead to hundreds of lawsuits against churches, schools, and youth groups, as well as individuals. Previously, most victims of childhood sexual abuse had until age 23 to bring criminal charges or to seek damages in civil lawsuits.

More than 100 men and women in New York State who claim they were sexually abused as children sued institutions today, including the Roman Catholic Church. A lawsuit was also filed against the Boy Scouts of America, accusing the organization of knowingly employing thousands of leaders who were suspected of molesting children. 

Jennifer Araoz, who said she was sexually abused as a child by the late Jeffrey Epstein, sued Epstein's estate early today. Araoz claims that Epstein raped her in his New York townhouse in 2002 when she was only 14. More lawsuits are expected to follow. Epstein, who once counted Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump among his friends, died in jail last week of an apparent suicide.

As a result of the new law, New York courts expect to see hundreds, if not thousands, of lawsuits filed in the coming weeks and months. The courts expect so many lawsuits that the system has assigned 45 judges to deal exclusively with sex-abuse cases.

Nothing can adequately undo the emotional and spiritual damage inflicted on a child or teenager who has been sexually molested, but the new law opens up a chance for them to seek justice and understand that the abuse was the fault of a sexual predator and that they were not to blame. 

The numerous lawsuits by other victims helps abuse victims understand that they are not alone and that others have suffered and survived similar traumas. A financial settlement, while it cannot undo the original trauma, can help make the victim's life easier, allow him or her to get counseling,  and empower her with the feeling that justice has been served.