IN THE NEWS-2021

To see a yearly archive of CHILD USA in the news, click a year from below

 

Lawsuit alleges New Jersey county was aware of allegations of sexual abuse by former sheriff and failed to act

News 12 Staff | April 22, 2021

Edward Bullock, the former sheriff of New Jersey’s Warren County, admitted to sexually abusing boys at the county’s now-closed youth shelter. Four of his alleged victims are suing the county, alleging it failed to protect them. And legal documents obtained by Team 12 show that county officials were warned about Bullock’s behavior. They also shed light on the county’s legal defense, which a leading child abuse advocate calls “reprehensible.”

“Warren County doesn’t want to admit the truth,” says one plaintiff, who Team 12 agreed to identify only by his initials, W.M. “Warren County wants to keep the darkest chapter in its history buried, and hope it never sees the light.”

In January 1988, W.M. was 11 years old. He says Bullock picked him up at the Hackettstown Police Station after his mother had left him unattended. It wasn’t the first time Bullock had picked him up.

Bill aiding abuse survivors clears critical Pa. Senate committee hurdle. But will it see a vote?

Elizabeth Hardison | April 21, 2021

A bill that gives victims of child sexual abuse a fresh chance to sue abusers cleared a key committee vote in the state Senate on Wednesday, but its fate remains uncertain due to opposition from the chamber’s second-ranking Republican.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-3 to approve a bill creating a two-year window for victims of child sex abuse to revive old cases in civil court. The Legislature has been considering versions of the proposal since 2018, following a string of high-profile child sex abuse scandals in Pennsylvania.

The measure sponsored by Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, now advances to the Senate floor, where it must be considered three times and pass a final vote before it can go to Gov. Tom Wolf.

Child sex abuse survivors hopeful Pa. legislature passes 2-year civil suit window

Sarah Cassi | April 19, 2021

A crowd of childhood sexual abuse survivors, their families, and supporters rallied Monday in Harrisburg for the Pennsylvania legislature to finally open a legal window for abuse victims to sue their abusers.

“We are close and we are hopeful, which is why we’re here,” said Marci Hamilton, founder and CEO of Child USA. “It’s time in Pennsylvania to do the right thing…No more waiting, no more games. It’s time. It’s time for a window.”

There was a moment of silence honoring the abuse survivors who did not live to see the legislation cross the finish line.

Child sex abuse law reform moves to Pa. Senate: Why some stakeholders are optimistic this time

Ivey DeJesus | April 7, 2021

Efforts to reform Pennsylvania’s child sex crimes law have long been a moving target.

For years, victims of child sexual abuse and their advocates have been pushing legislation but have come up short.

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed a bill to give some child sex abuse victims a two-year period to file claims in civil court, which would help those who were assaulted years ago and have long passed the deadline to seek legal action. The bill now moves on to the Senate.

The measure, which the House approved a vote of 149-52, would allow lawsuits outside the statute of limitations against both public and private entities. Some legislators are aiming to change the state law while also pursuing an amendment to the state constitution.

Amendment Allowing Child Sexual Abuse Survivors To Sue Perpetrators Could Be Years Away

wesa.fm | March 30, 2021

Commonwealth residents who were the victims of clergy sexual abuse could end up waiting two years or more before they get special legal window to pursue civil cases against their abusers. 

This came after the Wolf administration failed to provide proper public notice of an amendment passed by the legislature to be on the May ballot.

Then the state Senate halted an emergency measure to amend the state constitution. 

“After careful consideration, it has been determined by the majority that this matter does not meet the Emergency Status criteria and does not correct the failure by the Wolf administration as it still does not properly vet this matter with the public,” said Senate Republican Leader Kim Ward of Westmoreland County. “In fact, elevating this matter to emergency status further by-passes the public vetting process denying Pennsylvanians proper consideration of the proposed amendment.”

Pa. Senate leader nixes emergency amendment expanding window for child sex abuse victims

J.D. Prose | March 22, 2021

An effort in the Pennsylvania Legislature to get an emergency constitutional amendment expanding the window for child sex abuse victims to pursue civil action on the May primary ballot appeared dead on Monday after Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward said the situation “does not meet the emergency status criteria” and the entire multi-year process would start over.

Ward said she saw no way to proceed without restarting the legislative process.

“In fact, elevating this matter to emergency status further bypasses the public vetting process denying Pennsylvanians proper consideration of the proposed amendment,” Ward, R-Westmoreland County, said in a statement.

‘We’ll be there, masks and all’: Closed out of the Capitol for months, sex abuse survivors reluctantly return to push for emergency reform

Elizabeth Hardison  | March 21, 2021

LaQuisha Anthony nearly brought a panel of lawmakers to tears when she came to the state Capitol in 2019. She testified about a sexual assault she survived in college, and urged lawmakers to pass reforms that would make it easier for victims like her to sue and press charges against their abusers.

Anthony returned to Harrisburg a month later, again with a group of advocates who survived sexual abuse and assault. They lay on the Capitol’s hard marble floors while waiting for late-night votes, and cried together in the Senate gallery when lawmakers finally passed some of the reforms they’d been seeking for years.

KY Senate Panel Advances Bill Supporting Child Sex-Abuse Victims

Nadia Ramlagan | March 16, 2021

A bill that would extend the statute of limitations for misdemeanor sex offenses involving minors from five to ten years after their eighteenth birthday is progressing through the Legislature.

Supporters of House Bill 472, sponsored by Rep. Lynn Bechler, R-Marion, said it will help more survivors be heard and their perpetrators held accountable.

Nationwide, one in four girls and one in thirteen boys will experience sexual abuse, and 34% of all victims are younger than 12, according to data from the data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Boy Scouts’ Future

Barbara Mantel | March 12, 2021

More than 130 million youths have participated in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) since its inception in 1910. But membership has been declining for nearly 50 years, and the organization may be fighting for its life. More than a year ago, it filed for bankruptcy protection after hundreds of men sued, alleging they had been sexually abused as children by adult BSA volunteers. Approximately 85,000 men have come forward since then, and the organization has put forward a proposal to compensate victims and emerge from bankruptcy. But all parties may not be able to agree on a plan, leaving the Scouting community to wonder in what form the BSA will survive. Meanwhile, since 2013, the organization has begun admitting openly gay boys and adult leaders, transgendered youth and, most recently, girls into its flagship programs. The historic changes have sparked a feud with the Girl Scouts of the USA, the loss of many members to alternative Christian organizations and a fierce debate about what values the iconic organization should embrace.

Connecticut Senator Introduces Jennifer’s Law in Honor of New Canaan Mother Jennifer Dulos

Jill Rosenfeld | February 23, 2021

Connecticut Senator Alex Kasser (D) Greenwich, Stamford and New Canaan, has introduced “Jennifer’s Law,” for the 2021 Legislative session. The bill is named in honor of Jennifer Dulos, the New Canaan mother who was murdered by her husband while she was pleading for her and her children’s safety in family court and whose five children are now orphaned.

The focus of the bill is to update and modernize the definition of Domestic Violence (DV) in Connecticut state law to include Coercive Control – a pattern of abuse which is not necessarily physical that isolates, dominates and intimidates a victim into submission through a pattern of behavior. This can include assault, psychological abuse, financial abuse, revenge porn, stalking and other forms of domination and threat. The bill would also prioritize child safety in custody proceedings by making DV, including child abuse, the first factor assessed by the family court in a case involving custody.

Bill to remove age limitations on child sexual abuse crimes passes committee

normantranscript.com | February 17, 2021

State Rep. Carol Bush, R-Tulsa, on Tuesday secured committee passage of a bill that would eliminate age restrictions for future civil actions against individuals based on childhood sexual abuse incidents or exploitation.

House Bill 1002 would remove from state law the restriction that a victim of child sexual abuse or exploitation, suffered before they were 18, must bring any action for recovery of damages to the courts by their 45th birthday.

HB 1002 also would allow a five-year window, beginning Nov. 1 for the filing of retroactive claims for childhood sexual abuse for those persons who were previously barred from filing due to the age limitation.

After state blunder, Pa. abuse victims ask: ‘Who the hell are we supposed to trust?’

Laura Benshoff/Keystone Crossroads | February 16, 2021

The news that Pennsylvania had screwed up the process for putting a constitutional amendment before voters that would allow victims of decades-old sexual abuse to sue hit Jay Sefton hard.

He had let himself hope that things were finally about to change.

“[It] was a real dark wave that came over,” said Sefton, now a therapist in Massachusetts, who says he was abused by a priest in Havertown in 1985.

When the Pennsylvania Department of State failed to advertise the proposed constitutional amendment that had been passed by the legislature, it halted a march toward justice for thousands of victims abused in the commonwealth. The constitutional amendment process takes two years, and unless an emergency provision passes by mid-April, it would be 2023 before victims would be given a window to sue over decades-old sexual abuse claims.

Vindicated: Former Teacher of the Year opens up about dropped child molestation charge

Heather Crawford | February 8, 2021

It was a life-altering accusation: An elementary school assistant principal accused of child molestation by a former student, but the accusation wasn’t true according to the same student two years later. 

Now that educator is sharing his story and hoping to clear his name.

Honored as Glynn County’s 2012-2013 Teacher of the Year,
Eric Cabrera worked hard build his reputation and advance in his career, climbing his way up the ranks from a teacher’s assistant to assistant principal.

He was working at Oglethorpe Point Elementary on St. Simons Island in August 2018 when a police officer came to the school and met with him.

“He said that a student that had been at the school years before had said that I had molested him,” Cabrera recalled.

Abuse survivors and advocates push emergency measure for May ballot

Deb Erdley | February 6, 2021

A bipartisan team of Pennsylvania lawmakers will invoke a rare emergency provision of the Pennsylvania Constitution, seeking to restore a constitutional amendment ballot question long sought by victims of child sex abuse. An administrative error by the Department of State, discovered late last month, prevents the question from appearing on the May 18 ballot.

The proposed amendment gives child sexual abuse victims a retroactive two-year “window” in which to file civil lawsuits, no matter how long ago the alleged abuse occurred. The enabling legislation was approved in the General Assembly on three separate votes — two in the House and one in the Senate — and was headed for a final Senate vote this month to put it on the May ballot. But the Department of State failed to complete an essential task: legal advertising of the proposed amendment.

‘A slap in the face’ to abuse survivors: PA advocates want action after Boockvar’s office error

J.D. Prose | February 3, 2021

Advocacy groups for child sex abuse survivors are joining to push for legislation now that a constitutional amendment to retroactively expand the window to file civil suits will not be on the primary ballot this year.

The efforts comes after Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar submitted her resignation to Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday because her department failed to properly advertise the constitutional amendment that passed the Legislature in November 2019.

Now it could be years before the issue is resolved through a constitutional amendment rather than moving more quickly through legislation in Harrisburg.

Angry over botched constitutional amendment, Pa. lawmakers call for action to aid child sexual abuse victims

Ivey DeJesus | February 1, 2021

For some, it was a kick in the gut.

Some lawmakers and advocates have fought for nearly a decade to reform the state’s child sex crime laws. Now, members of the General Assembly, who were within days of approval for a long-anticipated constitutional amendment to open the doors to justice for victims, are outraged to learn a procedural mistake at the highest level has dealt a body blow to their efforts.

“I’m devastated. I’m just stunned,” said Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks County.

Lawmakers learned Monday that due to a procedural mistake, a proposed amendment to the state constitution to aid victims of child sex abuse will be delayed by two years. The Department of State failed to advertise the proposed amendment that would provide a two-year window for litigation by survivors of child sexual abuse who are beyond the statute of limitations.

‘Just sick over it’: Clergy sexual abuse victims, their advocates lament error that derailed Pa. amendment

Deb Erdley | February 1, 2021

Mark Rozzi was crushed Monday when Gov. Tom Wolf called to tell him an amendment seeking to open a window of opportunity in court for old child sex abuse claims would not make the primary ballot this year because of an advertising oversight.

Rozzi, a state representative from Berks County who has recounted how he was raped by a priest in junior high school, has led the charge to change the law for several years. During that time, he’s become a champion of other survivors who stayed in the shadows for decades.

Pa. House passes measure to allow voters to create a window for child sex abuse victims to go to court

Ivey DeJesus | January 27, 2021

Pennsylvania on Wednesday stepped closer to paving the way for adults who were sexually abused as children to seek recourse in court against their predators.

By a vote of 187-15, the state House of Representatives passed a measure that could lead to a temporary lifting of expired statute of limitations for some abuse victims, allowing them to file civil suits.

House Bill 14, authored by Rep. Jim Gregory, R-Blair, calls for a voter referendum on a two-year retroactive window that would lift expired statute of limitations to allow such legal civil action.

Trove of Buffalo Diocese abuse records turned over to victims in bankruptcy court

Jay Tokasz | January 10, 2021

Lawyers and survivors of childhood sexual abuse are reviewing more than 25,000 pages of internal Buffalo Diocese documents relating to clergy abuse, diocesan finances and personnel files.

Diocese lawyers began handing over the files in December under the terms of an agreement that they hashed out with abuse survivors who make up the committee of unsecured creditors in the diocese’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, according to multiple sources.

 

Whether the general public will be able to examine the confidential records someday remains unclear and likely will be subject to intense negotiations during the bankruptcy proceedings.

Philly child abuse advocacy group to survey Larry Nassar victims

Mark Abrams | January 6, 2021

A Philadelphia-based child abuse victim advocacy organization is spearheading a survey of victims of disgraced USA Gymnastics Dr. Larry Nassar.

Nassar was convicted of sexually abusing members of USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University teams over a period of decades. He’s now serving a 175-year prison term.

Jillian Ruck, executive director of CHILD USA, Philadelphia, said the group and its high-powered CEO and founder, child abuse victim lawyer Marci Hamilton, are behind the anonymous survey.

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