Articles Posted in Child Sex Abuse

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We are well into the one-year grace-period (which started on August 14) of New York’s Child Victim’s Act (“CVA”).  Victims of childhood sexual abuse of any age can, during this one-year window, sue their perpetrators and those who facilitated the sexual abuse through negligence or worse.  More than 600 CVA lawsuits have already been filed.  New York childhood sexual abuse lawyers, myself included, have received thousands of calls and emails from victims.

I have been surprised by the many calls I have received from those abused by teachers.  Some schools, it turns out, were sexual abuse “clusters”.  For example, Kenmore West High School in Buffalo has been in the news for the large number of CVA suits (31) filed against it. Maryvale Union Free School District and Niagara Falls School District also are sexual abuse clusters.

Sexual abuse clusters are the product of what I call a “culture of silence”.  A perpetrator cannot rape so many children alone.  He needs a culture of silence to surround and insulate him from detection. What do I mean by a culture of silence?  It’s a “see no evil, hear no evil” attitude about sexual abuse. It’s a kind of “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” even when the evil perpetrated is against children.

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On January 28 of this Year New York’s legislative bodies put the final touches on the “Child Victims Act”.  This is HUGE.  The new law will extend the statute of limitations for suing both sexual predators and anyone who negligently allowed the abuse to take place, including institutions such as schools, little leagues, boy scouts, counties who place children in foster care, churches, temples, and virtually anyone who knew or should have known of the abuse but did not do what they should have done to prevent it.

The previous statute of limitations was 23-years-of-age.  Now it’s 55.  But if the childhood victim is now older than 23 years of age, and his or her statute of limitations was thus expired before this new law passed, there is only a short window of time to sue:  from August 14 of 2019 through February 14, 2020.

Until this law took effect, New York lawyers had only two words to say to a victim of childhood sex abuse who wanted to bring a claim after his or her 23rd birthday:  “Too late”.  Now those two words will be:  “Sign here”.

index.jpgJerry Sandusky sexually abused and raped boys in Penn State showers, and elsewhere on Penn State grounds, and Penn State let him.

Jerry Sandusky is in jail and broke. But Penn State is not. That’s why Sanduski’s victims, now grown men, are suing Penn State and not Sandusky for money damages. You can’t get water from a rock. But Penn State is no rock. It’s a reservoir.

Michaels & Smolak has recently taken on a similar case involving a New York State school district whose administrators knew, or should have known, that one of its teachers was sexually abusing and raping young students. And we are suing the school district rather than the jailed and disgraced teacher. Again, you can’t get water from a rock.

IMG_1094-6792.jpgYesterday Jerry Sandusky was convicted of sexual abusing 10 boys. He will almost certainly spend the rest of his life in jail. Now comes the civil lawsuits for compensation for the victims. Sandusky will get sued, sure he will, but so will Penn State.

Will Penn State be held liable? In Pennsylvania as in New York, an employer is not automatically liable for sex abuse by its employees. Generally the victims must prove the employer knew or should have known what was going on, or else failed to screen new hires properly. Here Penn State ‘s goose is cooked. It knew way too much way too early and did way too little to stop it. You don’t have to have a crystal ball to accurately predict that Penn State will end up paying out millions of dollars to the victims. And rightfully so.

Maybe this very publicized case will dissuade other pedophiles from sexually abusing children. But I doubt it. Even those who are caught aren’t usually dissuaded from doing it again. Convicted pedophiles have an extremely high recidivist rate, which is why a sex offender public registry exists, and why, under New York’s Meagan’s law, they are not allowed to live within 2,000 feet of a school while on parole.

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