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TRENTON – There’s nothing festive about sexual abuse, but when steps are taken to comfort those wronged, it’s time to rejoice and to give thanks.
That was the case Monday afternoon when supporters of a bill making it easier for sexual abuse victims to seek damages in court celebrated its signing.
State Sen. Joe Vitale, a Democrat from Middlesex County, told of a two-decades-long struggle to get this done, saying, “Finally we got a bill.” That brought many in the audience of about a hundred in the Statehouse Annex to their feet. They cheered Vitale and later, they cheered even louder for state Sen.Loretta Weinberg, another key backer.
This was very much an emotional afternoon.
Many in the crowd had been sexually abused as children by Catholic priests or other authority figures. They have told their stories many times over the years, most recently a few months ago when the bill was in committee.
Specifically, the legislation Gov. Phil Murphy signed Monday allows child sexual abuse victims to file suit up to the age off 55, or within seven years of the realization abuse had occurred.
Supporters of the legislation say being sexually abused – especially by priests and other respected figures – traumatizes children to the point where recollecting what happened can take years to fully realize.
That’s why the bill’s upper age limit is 55. Previously, it was 20.
Vitale said New Jersey had one of the weakest laws in the nation regarding help for sexual abuse victims; now it has one of the strongest.
The impetus here is not only to give an avenue to those abused, It’s also to prompt more victims to come forward, thereby revealing the perpetrators of abuse. Or as one supporter put it, we will find out “where the hidden predators are.”
Vitale, Weinberg and many others spoke, including survivors. And the crowd applauded many times.
The governor’s name was mentioned more than once. After all, he did sign the bill,.
Yet, Murphy didn’t attend the ceremony, which is a fairly routine thing to do with significant legislation.
Hard to say if the crowd truly missed him, but his absence seemed unfortunate.