- Adults who were sexually abused as children and did not take legal action within the statute of limitations now have a one-year window to sue their abusers thanks to a new law that went into effect in New York.
- The law, called the Child Victims Act, also expands the statute of limitations so that victims can sue until they are 55 years old, as opposed to the previous limitation which was set at 23 years old.
- Institutions like the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts are preparing to take massive financial hits.
Child Victims Act Goes Into Effect
Adult victims who were sexually abused as children but did not take legal action in the required time period will now be given a year to sue their abusers under a new law in New York that went into effect Wednesday.
The one-year period, known as a look-back window, will let victims bring forward cases that may have expired decades ago under the previous statute of limitations. The victims will also be able to sue any institutions or organizations that allowed the abuse or were complicit.
Until now, New York had one of the most restrictive statutes of limitations for child sex abuse victims in the country. Under the previous statute, people who had been sexually abused as minors had to file charges by the time they were just 23 years old.
However, the new law, called the Child Victims Act, extends that time limit so that accusers can sue until they are 55.
The Child Victims Act is a big move for New York, but it has also been a long time coming. Lawmakers in New York’s legislature have been trying to extend the statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims for more than a decade.
Every time they tried, they were stopped by opposition from the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, Orthodox Jewish organizations, as well as the insurance industry. The biggest sticking point for those groups was the look-back window, which they claimed would create a huge financial burden for them.
Before the law passed, the New York Catholic Conference claimed the look-back window would “force institutions to defend alleged conduct decades ago about which they have no knowledge and in which they had no role.”
New York’s State Assembly had passed the law several times, but the State Senate kept preventing a vote. Then Democrats took over the state’s Senate in November, and the bill passed the Senate unanimously right after they took office in January.
Organizations Brace for Financial Hit
According to reports, hundreds and maybe thousands of lawsuits are expected to be filed just on the first day the window takes effect.
Now, many of the major institutions like the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts that had opposed the law because of the financial questions are bracing for the impact.
The Catholic Archdiocese of New York is already suing their insurance providers to make sure they provide coverage for the lawsuits they are about to face.
The Rockefeller University Hospital, which is being sued by hundreds of people who allege they were abused by a doctor, is also doing the same.
The financial hit these institutions could take just over the next year is huge, and there are examples from other states to prove it.
In 2003, California implemented a similar year-long look-back window. In that time, hundreds of millions of dollars were paid out and thousands of lawsuits were filed, most of which were against the Catholic Church, eventually forcing the Diocese of San Diego to file bankruptcy protection.
Similarly, after Minnesota closed its look-back window in 2016, numerous Catholic dioceses filed for bankruptcy protection as well.
According to reports, officials in the church said they are studying look-back windows in other states to try to estimate what could happen.
“While we do not know what will transpire when the C.V.A. window opens, at this point in time we have no expectation of needing to file for bankruptcy protection,” a church spokesman told The New York Times.
Studying look-back windows in other states might not be the best metric.
Some experts have noted the look-back window in New York could possibly create even more lawsuits than have been filed in other states because the national discussion about sexual misconduct scandals, especially regarding minors, has grown significantly over the last few years.
Mobilizations like the #MeToo movement have put accusations against religious organizations, private schools, sports programs, and celebrities in the spotlight. This has both increased awareness and prompted other victims to come forward.
Some notable examples include the numerous allegations against R. Kelly, as well as the dozens of women who have accused Jeffrey Epstein of sexually assaulting them.
The new law is also expected to allow Epstein’s victims to sue his estate for damages.
This cultural shift of victims having more attention and power to take action is not limited to New York.
In fact, New York is just one of 18 states and D.C. that passed similar laws extending their statutes of limitations for children who faced sexual abuse. Though only a few, including New Jersey, passed look-back window provisions.
Regardless, New York’s implementation of the Child Victims Act is significant, especially for the victims.
“The significance of it is a switch in the balance of power,” Marci Hamilton, the chief executive of the child protection think tank Child U.S.A., told the Times.
“There was a severe imbalance of power that led to their abuse in the first place. The culture shut them out of the legal system until now. For them, this is validation,” she continued.
Until these laws were passed, victims often had very few avenues to seek financial compensation. Catholic dioceses had previously made Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Programs, where victims could apply for settlements if they agreed not to file lawsuits.
According to reports, the Archdiocese of New York alone made agreements with more than 300 people and paid out $65 million to abuse victims.
However, at the same time, some have noted that the look-back window creates both an opportunity and a problem. For victims of child abuse, seeking justice can be powerful, but it can also bring up a lot of pain and trauma.
That conflict is made more complicated by the fact that the new statute of limitations for filing charges against abusers does not apply retroactivity, meaning that it only applies to new cases moving forward, basically requiring any abuse victims over the age of 23 have to bring claims through the look-back window.
“The Child Victims Act opens the door to the courthouse,” Michael Polenberg, the vice president for government affairs at the advocacy group Safe Horizon, told the Times.
“The Child Victims Act doesn’t change the way that our justice system works.”
See what others are saying: (TIME) (NPR) (The New York Times)
FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses
The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.
New FDA Authorization
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.
The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.
Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.
Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.
Hazy Recommendations, For Now
Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.
The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.
In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.
However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.
An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.
Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
Paris Hilton Urges Lawmakers To Crack Down on Abusive Teen Treatment Facilities
The heiress alleges that she was a victim of abuse in these types of centers for two years and wants to ensure that no child suffers through the same experience.
Paris Hilton Details Abuse Within “Troubled Teen Industry”
Socialite and entrepreneur Paris Hilton spoke outside of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to support the Accountability for Congregate Care Act, which is set to be introduced in the near future.
Hilton joined Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to advocate for the legislation, which aims to create a “bill of rights” for children in treatment and behavioral centers.
The heiress has alleged that she spent two of her teenage years in these types of facilities and was subject to rampant abuse. She is far from alone.
During a press conference, Hilton said that one night when she was 16, she woke up to two large men in her bedroom forcing her out of her house. She said she screamed for help because she thought she was being kidnapped, but her parents watched as she was taken away to a “troubled teen” program.
“Like countless other parents of teens, my parents had searched for solutions to my rebellious behavior,” she explained in an op-ed for The Washington Post this week. “Unfortunately, they fell for the misleading marketing of the ‘troubled teen industry’ — therapeutic boarding schools, military-style boot camps, juvenile justice facilities, behavior modification programs and other facilities that generate roughly $50 billion annually in part by pitching ‘tough love’ as the answer to problematic behavior.”
Hilton said she was sent to four different facilities where she was “physically and psychologically abused.”
“I was strangled, slapped across the face, watched in the shower by male staff, called vulgar names, forced to take medication without a diagnosis, not given a proper education, thrown into solitary confinement in a room covered in scratch marks and smeared in blood and so much more,” she explained during the press conference.
“At Provo Canyon School in Utah, I was given clothes with a number on the tag. I was no longer me, I was only number 127,” she continued. “I was forced to stay indoors for 11 months straight, no sunlight, no fresh air. These were considered privileges.”
Goals of the Accountability for Congregate Care Act
Hilton claims that a lack of transparency and accountability has allowed this structure of abuse to thrive for decades. In some cases, she said it has taken children’s lives. Now, she wants Congress and President Joe Biden to act.
“This bill creates an urgently needed bill of rights to ensure that every child placed into congregate care facilities is provided a safe and humane environment,” Hilton said of the Accountability for Congregate Care Act.
“This bill of rights provides protections that I wasn’t afforded, like access to education, to the outdoors, freedom from abusive treatment, and even the basic right to move and speak freely. If I had these rights and could have exercised them, I would have been saved from over 20 years of trauma and severe PTSD.”
Foster children, children being treated for mental disorders, and other children in youth programs would be impacted by the bill.
Hilton was one of several survivors and advocates who fought for the legislation on Wednesday. Rep. Khanna thanked them for using their stories to fight for change.
“No child should be subjected to solitary confinement, forced labor, or any form of institutional abuse,” he wrote. “Thanks to Paris Hilton, my colleagues & the survivors & advocates who joined us today to discuss how we can hold the congregate care industry accountable.”
While only Democratic legislators are currently sponsoring the bill, Hilton called for a bipartisan effort to fight for the rights of children.
“Ensuring that children are safe from institutional abuse isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue,” Hilton said. “It’s a basic human rights issue that requires immediate attention.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Hill) (NBC News)
Surgeons Successfully Test Pig Kidney Transplant on a Human
The procedure has been hailed as a major scientific breakthrough that could eventually open the door to a renewable source of desperately needed organs.
Surgeons at the NYU Langone Transplant Institute revealed Tuesday that they temporarily attached a kidney from a genetically modified pig to a human patient and found that it worked normally.
The operation was the first of its kind and could one day lead to a vast supply of organs for those who are in severe need. According to the Associated Press, more than 90,000 people in the U.S. are in line for a kidney transplant. Each day, an average of 12 die while waiting.
With the family’s consent, the groundbreaking procedure was performed on a brain-dead patient who was kept alive on a ventilator.
According to the surgeons, the pig used was genetically engineered to grow an organ that wouldn’t produce a sugar that the human immune system attacks, which would then trigger the body to reject the kidney.
The organ was connected to blood vessels on the patient’s upper leg, outside the abdomen, and it was observed for over 54 hours, with doctors finding no signs of rejection.
Concerns and Hurdles Ahead
While the procedure was successful, this doesn’t mean it’ll be available to patients anytime soon. Several questions about long-term functionality remain, and it will still have to go through significant medical and regulatory hurdles.
Details of the procedure haven’t even been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal yet, though there are plans for this.
Experts are also considering the ethical implications of this type of animal-to-human transplant. For some, raising pigs to harvest their organs raises concerns about animal welfare and exploitation. Such medical procedures have already earned criticism from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA.
“Pigs aren’t spare parts and should never be used as such just because humans are too self-centered to donate their bodies to patients desperate for organ transplants,” PETA said in a statement, according to The New York Times.
On the other side of the debate are people like Dr. Robert Montgomery, the director of the N.Y.U. Langone Transplant Institute who performed the breakthrough procedure in September.
“I certainly understand the concern and what I would say is that currently about 40% of patients who are waiting for a transplant die before they receive one,” he told BBC.
“We use pigs as a source of food, we use pigs for medicinal uses – for valves, for medication. I think it’s not that different.”