Hundreds of lawsuits filed as Child Victims Act goes into effect in New York state

ALBANY, New York (WABC) -- The Roman Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts and deceased financier Jeffrey Epstein are among the defendants facing sex abuse lawsuits in New York as the state moves to allow molestation lawsuits that had been blocked by the statute of limitations.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of people are filing suit Wednesday, the first day of the one-year window for older molestation cases.

A woman who says she was raped by Epstein as a teenager in 2002 is suing his estate and three of his associates.

State lawmakers extended the statute of limitations this year for new victims and gave those with older abuse claims one year to sue their abusers or institutions or businesses that employed them.

New York's old statute of limitations was among America's most restrictive.

Survivors, their attorneys and supporters held a rally at the New York County Supreme Court in Lower Manhattan calling on the Archdiocese of New York, Diocese of Brooklyn and Diocese of Rockville Centre to help survivors of clergy sexual abuse.

"This is a momentous time for courageous survivors who have waited so long for justice in New York," said Jeff Anderson, an attorney whose firm, New York-based Jeff Anderson & Associates, filed hundreds of civil molestation lawsuits on behalf of clients.

Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, issued the following video statement:
"Today, I don't mind admitting to you, is a dark time for the church. As you have probably been hearing, this is the first day of the opening of the statute of limitations. So we are going to hear a lot today about people bringing a suit against the Catholic Church and other organizations - public schools, government organizations, boy scouts, hospitals, you name it - for past sexual abuse. i just want to say that it is a tough time, it is a dark time. It's especially difficult for our beloved victims and their families to see all this dug up again, to have these wounds open. It's a tough time for our victims, survivors and families. And I'd ask you to pray for them."

Here is a partial list of lawsuits filed or expected to be filed Wednesday:

- More than 45 lawsuits against the Archdiocese of New York, more than 30 lawsuits against the Diocese of Brooklyn and over 15 lawsuits against the Diocese of Rockville Centre.
- A 57-year-old man filed suit against the Boy Scouts of America regarding an incident of sexual abuse in Brooklyn in 1972.
- Filing of a civil lawsuit against the Archdiocese of New York and Roman Catholic Church. In front of St. Patrick's Cathedral, 5th Avenue between 50th /51st Streets
- Filing of the first lawsuits against public schools throughout the State of New York.

The law creating the litigation window - the Child Victims Act - passed earlier this year following more than a decade of debate in Albany. The law also extends the statute of limitations for molestation going forward, giving new victims until age 55 to file lawsuits and until age 28 to seek criminal charges, compared to 23 under the old statute.

The one-year litigation window for past claims that was barred by the statute of limitations had been the sticking point to getting the legislation approved. Major institutions such as the Catholic Church argued against it, warning that it could cause catastrophic financial harm to any organization that cares for children.

The church dropped its opposition to the bill this year, after Democrats won control of the state Senate from Republican lawmakers who had been blocking the bill from receiving a vote. With Democrats in charge of the chamber, the bill passed unanimously.

Advocates, mental health experts and victims themselves say it often takes years for people who were molested as children to speak out about their trauma, even to a loved one.

Sometimes victims say they didn't think they'd be believed if they accused their priest, teacher, scoutmaster or another respected adult. Sometimes they say they felt some responsibility for the abuse, even though they were children at the time. Others say the shame, embarrassment and fear were simply too much to overcome.
"We only get one childhood, one adolescence," said Jack Traub, a 55-year-old Staten Island attorney who says he was molested by a doctor at Rockefeller University 45 years ago. He said that as a result of the trauma, he's had trouble forming and maintaining normal relationships all his life. "I can't go back. It is what it is."

Traub is one of 45 plaintiffs in the suit filed against Rockefeller University just minutes after the window opened by the Seattle-based firm of Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala, which also filed cases against the Boy Scouts and the Catholic Church.

The doctor, Reginald Archibald, has been accused of molesting hundreds of child patients over a 30-year period. He died in 2007. Rockefeller contacted former patients, offered free counseling and conducted an internal investigation that found Archibald "engaged in acts of sexual misconduct and sexual abuse toward many of his patients."

"Rockefeller University is committed to acting responsibly and working constructively with former patients of Dr. Archibald," the hospital said in a statement. "We profoundly apologize to his patients who experienced pain and suffering as a result of his reprehensible conduct."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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