Hundreds of lawsuits were filed electronically across the state just after midnight Wednesday as the one year “look-back window” provision of the Child Victims Act opened in New York state.
It allows for survivors of child sexual abuse to file civil suits against their attackers and the institutions that may of harbored them, no matter how long ago that abuse took place.
As expected, the majority of the lawsuits were filed against Catholic Dioceses across the state. The law firm Weitz and Luxenberg claimed it had 1,200 clients expected to file lawsuits across the state. Another firm, Anderson & Associates, which has been fighting for child sex abuse survivors for nearly 40 years, named 18 perpetrators in the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens that were subject to lawsuits.
Anderson & Associates claims incidents occurred at churches in Bayside, Elmhurst, Woodside, Richmond Hill, Jackson Heights and Flushing but provided little detail.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, leader of the Diocese of Brooklyn, braced his parishioners for the anticipated new litigation with an Aug. 7 letter. He also issued a statement on Aug. 14, the first day of the one-year look-back window.
“Today, we stand with the victims who were sexually abused as children. We have reached this point because too many victims all across society have sadly carried this heavy cross for far too long,” the bishop said. “Sexual abuse is a heinous crime, and victim-survivors now have a new avenue to seek redress through the Child Victims Act. For anyone abused by a priest, employee or volunteer, I am sorry that a member of our church you trusted became the source of pain and anguish. You should know the Diocese of Brooklyn has instituted the most aggressive policies to prevent any future abuse and to protect children.”
To date, the Diocese of Brooklyn has worked with nearly 500 victims and paid over $90 million in settlements. Earlier this year, the Diocese of Brooklyn published a list of credibly accused clergy who have served the Diocese throughout its 166-year history.
The Diocese has put victim-survivors first through the resources offered by the Victim Assistance Ministry and provides independent licensed therapists and support groups to help victim-survivors through the healing process. The Bishop also celebrates a yearly Mass of Hope and Healing bringing the faithful of Queens and Brooklyn together to pray for victim-survivors of clergy sex abuse.
“Our various support groups and our yearly Mass of Hope and Healing highlight our commitment,” the Bishop said. “I have also personally met with victim-survivors to hear their heart-wrenching stories. The Diocese of Brooklyn will never stop fighting sexual abuse. We will never stop supporting those who need healing and will forever work to restore the faith of those who have failed.”