Trenton – Legislators and advocates celebrate the signing of historic legislation that will help provide justice for survivors of sexual abuse by expanding the statute of limitations for civil actions. The bill was sponsored by Senators Joseph Vitale and Nicholas Scutari as well as Assemblywomen Annette Quijano, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Mila Jasey. It was supported by NJ SNAP, NJCASA and CHILDUSA, among other organizations.
“This law would not have made it to the governor’s desk today, if it wasn’t for the tireless efforts of survivors, advocates and organizations for over a decade. This is not my bill or Senator Scutari’s bill, this is their bill,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “Their work is an affirmation for all survivors of sexual assault, past and present, and today, New Jersey is a more just state. I want to thank everyone who has made this day possible.
“Sexual assault and rape are crimes entirely unique and they should be treated as such, particularly when it involves children. We know entirely too much today about the suppression of childhood trauma to be able to morally hold their justice to the same legal limitations as a victim of robbery. The standard civil statute of limitations is simply, painfully inadequate. Today, thankfully, survivors in New Jersey have the opportunity to seek justice.”
The law expands the current civil statute of limitations from two years to seven years for adult victims of sexual assault. Additionally, if an incident of sexual assault occurs before the victim turns 18, that person would be able to file a claim any time up until they turn 55. The bill will go into effect December 1st, 2019.
“It’s time to stand up for the survivors of sexual assault,” said Senator Scutari (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union). “If our institutions cannot keep their members safe or hold their employees accountable, then we will. With this bill, we are making it clear; New Jersey stands with the survivors, first.”
“This bill is about allowing victims the time to get the justice they deserve. Because those who have been sexually abused often suppress their memories for years or don’t connect their injuries to their abuse, they need much more time to file a civil action,” said Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union). “This new law gives them that time.”
“Sexual abuse survivors often struggle for years to come to terms with their abuse, especially child victims,” Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). We must allow victims the time to realize the damage that has been done to them both physically and mentally. Survivors of sexual abuse deserve a fair opportunity to seek justice.”
“We have an obligation to hold organizations and institutions accountable for the bad actions of their employee. We must also stand up for victims of sexual assault, particularly those who suffered the assault as a child,” said Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-Essex/ Morris). “Often times, survivors continue to suffer for years as they block memories of the horror of rape. With this new law, New Jersey is making it clear that we put victims first.”
“Activists have waited over a decade for the expansion of the statutes of limitations. And for many survivors, they have waited even longer to see justice served,” said Mark Crawford, NJ SNAP Director. “Survivors have become emboldened to speak out about what happened to them, and now they will be able to seek justice as well. I thank all the legislators and advocates who have worked so hard to get this done, and I look forward to other states following New Jersey’s lead.”
“Put simply, this bill gives survivors more options and opportunity to pursue justice. For too long, survivors’ choice was restricted by New Jersey’s insufficient two-year civil statute of limitations for sexual assault,” said Patricia Teffenhart, executive director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NJCASA). “We thank Sen. Vitale for decades of steadfast leadership on civil statute reform. We also thank Asw. Quijano for her advocacy in the Assembly, and are grateful to Senate President Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Coughlin, and Governor Murphy for ensuring this common-sense reform got over the finish line. Today we ensure that justice delayed does not have to mean justice denied for many survivors.”
“This day is long overdue but justice for sex assault victims in New Jersey is finally here. With Senator Vitale’s leadership, we fought long and hard to bring this legislation to fruition,” Marci Hamilton, CEO of CHILDUSA and Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. “There are countless barriers in place that discourage survivors from coming forward and pursuing justice. Today we made history by tearing down a wall that blocks justice and silences the victims.”
All victims will also benefit from a seven year discovery rule, meaning they will have seven years from the time the victim connects the trauma they suffered to the abuse they endured, to pursue justice. Additionally, any person previously time barred by current limitations would have a period of two years from implementation to bring a case
The bill previously passed the Senate by a vote of 32-1 and the Assembly 71-0-5.