Aug. 15, 2019 By Shane O’Brien
Dozens of child sexual abuse lawsuits have been filed against the Brooklyn Diocese since Wednesday–as the one-year “lookback” provision of the Child Victims Act kicked in across the state.
The “lookback” window went into effect Aug. 14 and allows previously time-barred survivors of child sexual abuse to file suit regardless of when the abuse took place. Therefore, victims who were unable to file suit due to the statute of limitations are now able to seek redress.
Across the state, hundreds of cases have been filed against major institutions since the look-back period began, including against the Boy Scouts of America, Rockefeller University and Catholic groups and dioceses.
The Brooklyn Diocese, which incorporates Brooklyn and Queens, has been named in 61 suits since Wednesday, with six against churches in Queens and 55 in Brooklyn.
The six churches in Queens include Our Lady of the Angelus Church in Rego Park; St. Patrick Church in Long Island City; and St. Margaret’s School and Catholic Church in Middle Village.
Jennifer Freeman, an attorney with the Marsh Law Firm in New York, said that the lookback period allows sexual abuse victims to finally hold their abusers accountable no matter how long ago the misdeeds took place.
The Child Victims Act was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Feb. 14, with the one-year lookback period kicking in Aug 14. The bill was initially introduced by former Assemblywoman Margaret Markey more than a decade ago but was never able to pass the senate until the Democrats took control of the chamber this year.
“For years this law has been hard fought so that survivors in New York City could hold their abusers accountable and seek justice. That moment is now here,” Freeman said. “Sexual predators and large institutions have attempted to hide heinous abuse for too long, and today, we can begin to heal the pain and suffering our clients in New York City have experienced over decades.”
Samantha Breakstone, an attorney representing Weitz and Luxenberg, said that the provision gives many people an opportunity to have a voice and seek justice.
Breakstone said that Weitz and Luxenberg had filed nine lawsuits across the state since the lookback period opened, including one in Queens against St. Margaret’s School and Catholic Church in Middle Village. However, she said that she expects that number to rise quickly as more people come forward.
The Brooklyn Diocese issued a statement on Wednesday offering solidarity with the victims.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio apologized and said that the Brooklyn Diocese has implemented aggressive policies to ensure that sexual abuse never happens again.
The diocese has paid more than $90 million in settlements and worked with nearly 500 victims. Earlier this year it released the names of every clergy member who was credibly accused of sexual abuse throughout the history of the diocese.
“Today, we stand with victims who were sexually abused as children,” DiMarzio said in a statement. “We have reached this point because too many victims all across society have sadly carried this heavy cross for far too long. 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 who 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.”