Getting the state’s Child Victims Act passed took the better part of 13 years and there are flecks of blood, sweat and tears of its advocates on every page.
Now, here comes the hard part.
The Child Victims Act goes into effect today and supporters are predicting that hundreds, maybe thousands, of child sex abuse victims will come forward and file lawsuits seeking justice and compensation for the crimes committed against them.
The law creates a one-year window of opportunity for victims of child sexual abuse to make a claim against their abuser, no matter when the offenses were committed. The law applies to victims whose abuse occurred when they were age 18 or younger.
After the one-year window, which expires Aug. 13, 2020, victims have until they reach age 55 to file a civil claim for new cases, and until age 28 for criminal cases.
Opening the one-year window for child sexual abuse survivors to file civil claims regardless of when they occurred means the majority of the lawsuits are likely to be brought against large institutions such as the Catholic Church, hospitals, Boy Scouts, public schools and orthodox Jewish organizations.
“About 90% of the cases filed Wednesday and beyond will be institutional cases and the actual figures show those cases are about 5% to 10% of the actual cases of abuse that have taken place,” Gary Greenberg, a New Baltimore attorney, child victims advocate and a child sexual abuse survivor, said Monday. Greenberg is trying to set up a fund for victims whose cases won’t make it to court — and there could be a lot of them.
Ultimately, the provisions of the Child Victims Act will enable child sexual abuse survivors to get their day in court, which for now might have to be enough. Greenberg himself said Monday that many victims will not get justice Wednesday. The goal, then, needs to be ensuring that individuals and organizations that committed child sexual abuse will, in the long run, be held accountable for the suffering they caused all those years ago.