Watch CBS News

New Jersey Senate Will Vote On Bill To Expand Statute Of Limitations For Child Sex Abuse Civil Lawsuits

Follow CBSPHILLY Facebook  | Twitter

TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) – A bill which would expand the statue of limitations in certain civil actions for sexual abuse cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. The bill cleared committee by a vote of 8-1 and will move to the Senate floor for further consideration.

A former United States gymnastic athlete and sex abuse survivor spoke out in New Jersey today in hopes of having a hand in change. USA Gymnastics Hall of Famer and survivor of sexual abuse, along with dozens of others, took to the state house about a bill that would expand the statute of limitations for child sex abuse civil lawsuits.

The bill would open up the door for many sexual abuse victims to take their attackers to court, expose their heinous actions and seek damages.

"I was always abused and shamed as a gymnast," said Jessica Howard.

Jessica Howard is a USA Gymnastics Hall of Famer and survivor of sexual abuse by the notorious Dr. Larry Nassar. She was among the more than 50 people to testify before New Jersey's Senate Judiciary Committee as they considered a measure to expand the window of opportunity for sexual abuse victims to hold their abusers accountable in civil court.

"The victims that are already out there will have a chance to get that little bit of empowerment and that feeling that it wasn't in my head," Howard said. "It happened and it was wrong and that's where you can start the road to recovery."

Governor Wolf Orders Review Of Glen Mills School Over Abuse Allegations

The bill before lawmakers would allow child victims to sue their abusers until the victim turns 55 years old or within the first seven years of realization that they suffered abuse. That would help those who suppressed trauma have a path to seek damages in court.

Right now, the statute of limitations for civil suits is two years from the act of abuse, which bill-sponsor Joe Vitale says isn't fair to victims.

"Every single day we tell them that unless they can disclose their assault or abuse to those around them and face their rapist or abuser within two years, their trauma doesn't matter," Vitale said.

Some oppose the bill on the grounds to retroactively allow people to sue individuals, charities or organizations for situations they may have never known about in the past.

The Catholic Church, which is embroiled in a wide-reaching abuse investigation by New Jersey's attorney general, doesn't want the bill to apply to accusations prior to the mid-1990s.

But, a spokesman says they do support the over-arching goal of allowing victims more opportunities to seek justice.

"First of all, we want the victims to know that we're concerned, want to help them heal and we want to provide compensation," New Jersey Catholic Conference Executive Director Pat Brannigan said.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.