Civil Statute Reform for Survivors of Sexual Violence Moves Forward
Legislative Hearings for Critical Reform Will Begin in March
February 14, 2019
Trenton, N.J. – New Jersey’s legislature announced today that it will begin hearings on expanding the state’s civil statute of limitations on March 7.
“We’re thankful that this bill, and the survivors of abuse who will benefit from it, will have their day to be heard in Trenton,” said Patricia Teffenhart, executive director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NJCASA). “For years, survivors and victims of sexual violence have been denied justice because of New Jersey’s outdated civil statute of limitations. Expanding our civil statute is a common-sense, long overdue reform. We’re grateful to Sen. Vitale for his sustained, thoughtful, and passionate advocacy on behalf of survivors.”
The bill, S477 / A3648, would expand the state’s limited civil statute, allowing victims of violence more time to decide if they want to pursue justice through the civil system. N.J. has no criminal statute of limitations for sexual assault; presently, the civil statute is two years. Versions of civil statute reform have been introduced in Trenton for nearly a decade, without gaining traction.
Research has shown that it’s common for victims to delay reporting acts of sexual violence, given the impact of trauma on the brain. One study of female survivors of child sexual abuse found nearly half – 47 percent – did not disclose the abuse to anyone for over five years. Another study that used sexual assault hotline data found the average age of callers was 52 years old – and that male callers tended to be older than female callers.
According to research by the nonprofit organization ChildUSA, 80 percent of states have made reforms to their state’s statutes of limitations for sexual assault since 2002 – the year that the Boston Globe’s Spotlight report thrust child sexual abuse by clergy to national attention. N.J. is not one of them.
ABOUT NJCASA: NJCASA (www.njcasa.org) is the statewide advocacy and capacity building organization that represents the twenty-one county-based rape crisis centers, and the Rutgers University Office of Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance. NJCASA elevates the voice of sexual violence survivors and service providers by advocating for survivor-centered legislation, training allied professionals, and supporting statewide prevention strategies that work to address and defy the socio-cultural norms that permit and promote rape culture.
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