New Law Will Give NJ Sexual Abuse Victims More Time to Pursue Justice
May 13, 2019
Change will finally arrive for sexual abuse survivors in New Jersey with the extension of opportunity to seek justice.
On Monday May 13, reports state Governor Phil Murphy is set sign a new law expanding the civil statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases in New Jersey. The bill will allow sexual abuse survivors more time to sue their abusers and the organizations that employed them. Patricia Teffenhart, executive director of the New Jersey coalition Against Sexual Assault, states that the current statute of limits has been insufficient for victims. So, this new law will monumentally impact survivors’ chance to reach healing and justice.
“This will finally allow survivors in New Jersey more time to come forward and hold their perpetrators accountable for the crimes that they committed,” she said.
The new bill gives victims’ seven years to bring a civil suit against their abusers after victims adjust to and recognize the effects of their abuse. The new seven-year time frame far surpasses the previous frame of only two years. Teffenhart agreed, saying the two-year time frame was not “responsive to the trauma of this particular crime.”
Additionally, the new law opens a two-year “lookback window” for any victim regardless of when the abuse occurred. This means starting December 1, 2019 survivors would be able to revive old cases of sexual abuse and pursue justice against their abusers. New Jersey’s “lookback window” follows the example of states like California and New York who opened similar windows for sexual abuse victims, New York in 2019 and California in 2003.
New Jersey State Senator Joe Vitale, the bill’s lead sponsor, said that this bill will allow survivors access to the justice system even if they can never get closure.
“It gives them a sense of accountability and proof that this actually did happen to them,” Vitale said.
The progress made by New Jersey’s legislation may inspire other states in the US to follow suit and reexamine their own statute of limitations on sexual abuse.