NJ Forms Task Force to Investigate Clergy Abuse
Since Pennsylvania released a report on clergy abuse, the topic has made headlines. And it seems like New Jersey is ready to move forward with its own investigation.
According to recent news reports, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal had announced he was forming a criminal task force to investigate claims of clergy abuse and any evidence that shows there was an effort to cover it up. All seven of the state’s dioceses have said they will cooperate with the investigation. In addition, a hotline will be established for victims to report allegations.
New Jersey is not alone in this decision. According to CNN, several states across the country, including New York, are either opening up a new investigation or asking for information from the church to investigate whether these crimes were covered up.
In a previous article, we discussed the civil legal remedies that may be available to clergy abuse victims. But what about criminal charges? Can guilty priests be charged with a serious crime?
Criminal Sexual Abuse Laws in NJ
According to New Jersey law, sexual assault occurs when someone commits an “act of sexual penetration with another person” without the victim’s consent or with a victim who is unable to consent. No matter when the act occurred, there is no statute of limitations on reporting the assault to the police.
There are several types of criminal sexual violence recognized by law, including:
- Aggravated Sexual Assault
- Sexual Assault
- Endangering the Welfare of Children
- Criminal Sexual Contact
- Internet Sex Crimes
Penalties for sexual assault vary, depending on what crime had been committed. For example, being convicted of aggravated sexual assault, you could face up to 20 years in prison. Meanwhile, a lewdness charge carries fines and possible jail time.
Clergy Abuse Criminal Charges
Unfortunately, criminal charges in clergy abuse cases are rare. According to New Jersey law, sexual abusers cannot be criminally prosecuted for cases that predated 1996, the year that the state removed the statute of limitations for sex abuse. This means only cases that occurred within the last 22 years can be prosecuted.
There is also the issue of confidentiality agreements. According to Mark Crawford, the head of the New Jersey chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, many church authorities had settled abuse claims with confidential agreements and monetary payouts. This may have prevented victims from pursuing criminal charges.
A Survivor of Sexual Abuse? Get Help Now
If you are a victim of any type of sexual abuse, the time to act is now. The attorney general has established a hotline to report any allegations of abuse by the clergy. It’s staffed by trained professionals and operates on a 24/7 basis. The toll-free number to report clergy abuse to the state is 855-363-6548.
For more information about sexual abuse and your legal options, contact the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone today for a free, confidential consultation about your claim.