Connecticut Court upholds state law extending reporting on sex abuse

The Connecticut Supreme Court recently upheld the retroactive extension of the statute of limitations for reporting sexual abuse.

Connecticut has undergone in evolution in laws that govern when a victim can report acts of sexual abuse and hold the perpetrator criminally responsible. Prior to 1990, the victim generally had five years after the crime was committed to report. After 1990, the law extended these protections to two years after the victim reached the age of 18 or seven years after the crime was committed, whichever was less. However, in 2002 these laws were greatly extended to 30 years after the victim turned 18.

This evolution highlights the state’s commitment to protecting innocent youth. There has been pushback, most recently on whether or not this law could be applied retroactively for crimes that occurred prior to 2002. The Connecticut Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a case addressing this question.

More on the case

The case, Jacob Doe v. Hartford Roman Catholic Diocesan Corporation, involved a victim who alleged he was sexually abused by a priest. He claimed the Roman Catholic Diocesan Corporation was negligent and reckless in allowing the accused to work with children, since the accused had a history of sexually abusing minors.

An article by the Associated Press discussed the case, noting the Supreme Court rejected every one of the archdiocese’s arguments. These arguments included a challenge on whether the church was negligent and reckless in allowing the accused to work with children as well as an argument that the 2002 law extending the statute of limitations was a violation of due process.

More on the law under examination

The accused argued that the retroactive extension of this law violated the basic notions of legal fairness – or his right to due process. This right is protected in both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Although the extension of the statute of limitations to 30 years is large, those in favor of the law argue its retroactive extension is not a violation of due process. Ultimately, Connecticut’s Supreme Court sided with those who favor the law, ruling in for the victim unanimously. This ruling showcases the state’s commitment to protect innocent youth from sexual abuse.

Impact of the ruling

The ruling does not just impact cases involving clergy. The retroactive extension was supported for all cases of sexual abuse involving a minor. As a result, those who were victimized by sexual abuse or assault in their minor years may still be able to hold the perpetrator accountable. Contact an experienced Connecticut sexual abuse lawyer to have a confidential discussion about your case and better ensure your legal rights are protected.

Keywords: sexual abuse

Child Sexual Abuse Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Prove a Molestation Case?

A. Child sexual abuse can take many forms and be difficult to prove, especially if the physical injuries are no longer present. However, many physicians and behavioral specialists are able to spot the warning signs of sexual abuse in children and can help build a strong case against the abuser. Our lawyers are experienced in working with the right experts to help with your claim.

Can You Sue a Teacher for Sexual Abuse?

A. Yes. Teachers can be held liable in a civil claim for sexual abuse against minor students. Like with all civil claims for child sexual abuse, it is important to work with an attorney right away to make sure all evidence is collected and documented to help build your case.

What Are My Legal Rights if I Was Sexually Abused as a Child?

A. Our lawyers represent victims who were sexually abused as children (under the age of 18). The law only allows victims to bring a claim up until the age of 48. Do not wait to learn about your legal options if you were the victim of sexual abuse as a minor.

Why Choose Us?

A. We have more than 50 years of experience handling personal injury and abuse cases at Tremont Sheldon Robinson Mahoney P.C. Our firm only handles personal injury cases. Why does this matter? You wouldn’t go to an eye doctor for a foot problem — just like you shouldn’t go to a full-service law firm for your personal injury case. All we do is personal injury cases, and our success in these cases is proven by our history and record.

What is the statute of limitations with regard to filing a sexual abuse claim?

A. Victims who claim damages for sexual abuse, sexual assault or sexual exploitation as a child can file a claim up to 30 years past the age of abuse (typically until the age of 48) in Connecticut.

However, if you claim damages as a result of being sexually assaulted as an adult, then you have a much shorter time period in which to file a lawsuit. Typically, you have three years from the date of the assault to file against the perpetrator for his or her intentional acts and two years from the date of the assault to file against any other person or entity (e.g., perpetrator’s employer) who may have been negligent in allowing the perpetrator to have contact with you.

If there is a criminal case presently pending against the perpetrator, can I still file a civil suit?

A. Yes. The two cases can proceed at the same time, but there may be reasons to wait, if possible, until the criminal case concludes.

What is the difference between criminal and civil cases? Is there a different burden of proof?

A. Many people know that the burden of proof (or evidence needed to prove the case) in a criminal case is beyond a reasonable doubt. Criminal cases require a very high standard because being found guilty of a crime is at stake as well as the potential to go to jail. In a civil case, no one is accused of a crime and cannot be found guilty. Instead, the question in a civil case is whether a person was negligent and responsible for damages to another. The burden of proof in a civil case is lower (easier to prove) than in a criminal case. The standard to win a case is “more likely than not” that the person was at fault, or proof of just over 50 percent responsible.

The perpetrator is now dead. Can I still file a claim?

A. Yes. A claim can be filed against the estate of the perpetrator. However, there are very strict and short time restrictions for doing so.

I do not want my identity revealed. Is there a way that I can file a claim and remain anonymous?

A. You can ask permission from the court to file your case under a pseudonym (e.g., Jane Doe or John Doe). It is up to the judge to grant or deny your request.

Who are mandated reporters of suspected child abuse?

A. Under Connecticut law, the following people are mandated reporters of suspected child abuse: doctors; nurses; medical examiners; dentists; dental hygienists; psychologists; coaches; school teachers; school principals; school guidance counselors; school paraprofessionals; social workers; police officers; juvenile or adult probation and parole officers; members of the clergy; pharmacists; physical therapists; optometrists; chiropractors; podiatrists; mental health professionals; physician’s assistants; certified EMT providers; certified drug and alcohol counselors; licensed marital and family therapists; sexual assault and battered women’s counselors; paid child care providers in public or private facilities; child day care centers; licensed group and family day care centers; employees of the Department of Children and Families or the Department of Public Health if responsible for licensing day care centers, homes, or youth camps; and employees of the Office of the Child Advocate, including designated Child Advocates.

Any person so identified who in the course of his or her employment or profession has reasonable cause to believe or suspect that a child has been abused or neglected or has been inflicted with non-accidental injuries or is at imminent risk of serious harm must report or cause a report to be made in accordance with state law. Violation of the law will result in a monetary fine and required participation in an educational and training program. See Connecticut General Statutes Sections 17-101(b); 17a-101a.