BROWARD (CBSMiami) – Back in August, a landmark law took effect in New York that extends the statute of limitations for victims of sexual abuse and gives victims of abuse that occurred years or decades ago a one-year window to bring suit against their attackers.
Now, Broward State Rep. Michael Gottlieb is sponsoring similar legislation that he hopes to pass in Florida.
”Our intention is to be able to extend the statute of limitations for anybody over the age of 16 to be able to sue until the age of 55,” Gottlieb said.
He also wants to create a one-year period where victims of sexual abuse from years or decades ago can finally bring their cases to civil court. Gottlieb said it can take many years for victims of sexual abuse to feel comfortable telling their stories and facing their attackers in court.
“A lot of these individuals who are victimized, either they repress the memory or they are ashamed to come out and sue and it takes time through counseling or personal building,” he said.
Adriana Alcalde is a former longtime Broward sex crimes prosecutor. She now works on behalf of sex abuse victims in New York and Florida in her position as an attorney at the law firm of Eisenberg and Baum. She said sexual abuse victims deserve their day in court and deserve the justice and monetary compensation that has long been denied them.
“These people have a lifetime of scars,” Alcalde said. “They’ve been talking to therapists about this. They have bills for a lifetime for therapy. Some have had alcohol abuse, drug abuse — things that they turned to to cope for the nightmare of what happened to them.”
In New York, as a result of the new law, reports indicate that courts are seeing an uptick in child sexual abuse lawsuits. One of them is on behalf of Brian Toale, who recently told his story to “CBS Evening News.” He filed a civil lawsuit 50 years after he says he was raped by employee at his Catholic high school in New York
“He maneuvered me into a position where he was able to touch me inappropriately,” Toale said, adding that he filed suit because “in court the stories come out. Who knew what, when?”
In New York, the law is expected to bring increased legal action against the Catholic Church, public and private schools and the Boy Scouts. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have revised statute of limitations laws taking effect this year. Alcalde believes the time is right for this legislation.
“There’s less shame around it and people are coming forward and I think now as a society we are saying, it’s time to hold the institutions that have allowed this to go on accountable,” she said.
Gottlieb said he hopes to get the proposed legislation on the calendar for upcoming committee hearings. He also said he’s receiving positive feedback from legislators regarding the bill.