SNAP Applauds Reform as Clergy Abuse Survivors to Testify in New Jersey Senate
Today in New Jersey, survivors of sexual violence will have their chance to tell their stories and affect change. We applaud the sponsors of Senate Bill S477 and look forward to this much-needed reform being adopted in law.
The New Jersey Senate Judiciary committee will hear testimony from survivors of child sexual abuse in support of the bill – sponsored by Senator Joseph Vitale (D-19) – which expands the civil statute of limitations for both children and adults. If passed, S477 would give victims of child sexual abuse either until age 55 or 7 years after discovery of the abuse, whichever is later. Additionally, the bill would create a two-year “window,” or suspension of all SOL restrictions, giving those who were previously barred by these archaic laws an opportunity to seek justice.
Sexual violence is one of the nation’s most underreported crimes, with estimates ranging from 75% to 85% of victims never coming forward to make a report. And because of the trauma they have experienced and the resulting feelings of shame or fear of disbelief, most survivors don’t come forward until much later in life; the average age of disclosure is 52.
In light of these facts, forty states have amended their statutes of limitations since 2002. With this hearing today, New Jersey becomes that much closer to becoming the 41st state to take the steps to reform these laws and go from a state with one of the shortest filing windows in the country to one of the longest.
This bill is a monumental step forward and brings much-needed reform to the archaic laws that prevent survivors from coming forward and allow abusers to escape justice and hurt more children and vulnerable adults. We are grateful to not only Sen. Vitale and his colleagues in the legislature, but the dedicated survivors and advocates who have worked for decades to create this opportunity for reform.
As victim stories are told and heard in the New Jersey State House, lawmakers have a duty to restore justice to those who have been held to silence for far too long. When these laws are amended, children and communities will be safer and institutions that have hid or recycled known predators will be held accountable. This bill deserves broad bi-partisan support, as no child should be put at risk by known predators. By considering and passing S477, New Jersey’s lawmakers have an opportunity to do something about it.
We hope that the consideration – and passage – of S477 next week will encourage victims of sexual violence, no matter their age or where their abuse occurred, to come forward and make a report to law enforcement. And we hope that those who may have reported in the past but were ignored or fell victim to archaic, predator-friendly laws will find the strength to go through the process one more time in order to find healing and protect children in New Jersey.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)