Are you looking for answers, support, and accountability after someone in your family was sexually abused or assaulted? Our lawyers can help you with common concerns like:
- What kind of punishment will the offender face?
- Who can be held liable for enabling sexual assault and abuse?
- Should we consider filing a civil lawsuit?
Our New Jersey victims' rights lawyers can help your family get the support you need.
Organizations and businesses that fail to do all they can to prevent sexual assault need to be held accountable for the harm they've caused.
"True Advocates." We felt like our case mattered to them.
- Meet Our Attorneys
- Filing A Private Civil Lawsuit
- First-Party Offender Lawsuits
- Third-Party Negligence Lawsuits
- New Jersey Criminal Laws
- Civil Statute Of Limitations
- New Jersey Resources For Survivors
Were you or a loved one sexually assaulted or sexually abused in New Jersey? Our compassionate personal injury attorneys are here to help. It may feel as though you have nowhere to turn, but you do. Our lawyers understand the painful storm of emotions caused by sexual abuse. Anger, fear, shame, embarrassment - these are natural reactions to a terrible trauma.
Meet Our Dedicated Attorneys
Know that you did nothing wrong. This was not your fault. You were harmed in the most egregious manner imaginable. You were betrayed, perhaps by someone you trusted, such as a priest, doctor or teacher. But you can fight back. Justice is possible. Thanks to New Jersey's powerful tradition of civil common law, you may be eligible to pursue justice by filing a lawsuit.
In many cases, eligible sexual abuse and assault survivors are entitled to pursue accountability and financial compensation by filing a private civil lawsuit. These civil lawsuits are distinct from any proceedings occurring in the criminal justice system. In a very real sense, this is your lawsuit and your's alone. You have a powerful story to tell. We want to help you tell it. Struggling to come to terms with a range of overwhelming emotions? Know that you are not alone. We believe you, and we believe that your story deserves to be told. Support is available. Looking for a sense of closure, a resolution to the pain and suffering you have endured? Filing a lawsuit may be the first step on the path to true recovery, because you can pursue justice and hold the responsible parties - all of them - accountable.
Our Legal Team
AbuseGuardian.com is sponsored by a nationwide network of dedicated legal professionals, attorneys and advocates who have devoted their careerst to supporting sexual abuse and assault survivors. To pursue cases in New Jersey, our network has partnered with the experienced lawyers at Laffey, Bucci & Kent, a personal injury law firm.
The attorneys at Laffey, Bucci & Kent have a vast experience in handling these tough cases. Over 90 years of combined trial experience, the firm's lawyers have helped numerous survivors in their pursuit of justice, handling lawsuits against some of the nation's largest defendants, including the Catholic Church, private boarding schools and national massage spa chains.
Justice is possible. With an experienced advocate at your side, you can secure compensation and force the responsible parties to be held accountable. Laffey, Bucci & Kent's sexual assault and sexual abuse practice team is led by firm Partner Brian Kent, Esq. Before entering private practice, Brian served as a prosecutor in the Sex Crimes Unit of the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office. As a sex crimes prosecutor, he earned invaluable experience working within the criminal justice system, gaining knowledge of criminal procedures, sex crimes and the mentality of offenders. Brian knows this area inside and out. He can help you. The attorneys at Laffey, Bucci & Kent have spent decades pursuing justice on behalf of survivors. You could be next. Our lawyers can help you find your voice again. You can take control of your legal future.
Filing A Private Civil Lawsuit
All too often, sexual assault and abuse survivors are intimidated into silence, forced to live out lives of quiet desperation as they struggle to confront what happened to them. Shame, embarrassment and fear are common, while closure seems impossible. But it doesn't have to be this way. We believe that you have a powerful voice. Your story deserves to be told.
You are not a victim, but a survivor. You have been forced to go through immense hardships, through no fault of your own. But you don't have to be defined by what happened to you. Recovery is possible, though it often takes years of concerted effort through therapy. For many survivors, pursuing justice is the first step on the path to true recovery.
In New Jersey, there are two distinct avenues for pursuing justice against the parties responsible for your assault or abuse - the criminal justice system and the civil justice system. These options are not mutually-exclusive; you can choose to pursue both criminal charges and a private civil lawsuit.
In the criminal justice system, the direct perpetrators of crime are held accountable for their wrongful actions by criminal prosecutors. In prosecuting sex crimes, prosecutors hold these offenders accountable to society as a whole, affirming our responsibility to comport with societal codes of conduct. At bottom, the criminal justice system is about society, not individual survivors. No wonder so many survivors feel as though they were used by the prosecution in their case, treated as glorified pieces of evidence.
What Is The Civil Justice System?
The civil justice system is quite different. In a private lawsuit, the parties responsible for your suffering can be held accountable to you as an individual. It's not about society, or the whims of a criminal prosecutor. Private lawsuits are all about you, the plaintiff, the person leveling the claim for compensation in the first place. Your story is at the core of this process.
It's an unfortunate reality of our current legal system that the criminal justice system, for all its prosecutors and judges, is not designed to support survivors. In particular, the topic of financial compensation is rarely broached. The civil justice system is where this necessary support becomes a reality. Your interests aren't an afterthought; they're the core of what we do.
Thanks to New Jersey's strong history of civil law, survivors have been granted an additional avenue to pursue justice. If you were violated by a criminal offender, New Jersey law empowers you to file a civil lawsuit and demand accountability from the responsible parties.
Identifying Responsible Parties
Sexual abuse and sexual assault come in numerous forms. These crimes can be committed by anyone, against anyone, at any time. In most cases, however, sexual misconduct comes from a place we least expect it - from someone we know, even someone we trust.
It could be a priest, deacon or rabbi. It could be a trusted family doctor, a nursing home employee or hospital staff member. Acquaintances, family members, friends - sexual misconduct can come from anywhere.
New Jersey's strong criminal code holds the direct perpetrators of sexual misconduct accountable for their crimes. The state's criminal laws have been crafted over the course of decades by generation after generation of legislators. The purpose of the criminal justice system is to confirm responsibility and impose punishment.
But there is a separate set of laws, distinct from the criminal justice system, a code of conduct that guides our behavior in civil life. We should not touch other people when they don't want us to. We should never abuse a child. We should never put a person in fear of imminent harm, and we should never intentionally inflict emotional distress on another person.
These rules are found in New Jersey's civil code, a vast body of rules and guidelines developed over centuries through court decisions and legal interpretation. The civil code outlines a number of legitimate causes of action - reasons to sue someone else for financial compensation.
Causes of action vary depending on who you plan to sue. As we've already mentioned, New Jersey civil law allows survivors to file two different kinds of lawsuits, ones against direct perpetrators - individual criminal offenders - and ones against negligent third-party defendants. These two types of lawsuit depend on different legal theories. While third-party lawsuits are governed by the doctrine of negligence, lawsuits against first-party criminal offenders tend to rely on what are known as intentional torts (a tort is simply a form of wrongdoing recognized in civil courts).
What Are Intentional Torts?
In the vast majority of cases, lawsuits filed against first-party criminal offenders rely on three intentional torts. As the name implies, these forms of wrongdoing require a finding of either intention (the defendant intended to cause harm) or extreme recklessness (the defendant acted in callous disregard of the effects of their actions on another person).
- Assault - While most people think of "assault" as a violent attack against someone, the term has a different meaning in New Jersey's civil law. In civil cases, the term "assault" refers to any gesture, action or statement that victim fear the imminent threat of physical harm, such as a raised fist or a shouted violent threat. Assault, then, is about the threat of imminent harm, not the violence that causes harm itself.
- Battery - "Battery" is what most of us think of as assault - the actual physical contact that causes harm. In technical terms, battery refers to the intentional touching of another person in an offensive or harmful way without the person's consent.
- Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress - This tort should be fairly self-explanatory from the name. The charge of intentional infliction of emotional distress holds in cases where the defendant acted intentionally or recklessly, in such an egregious manner "as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency," causing emotional distress in the victim.
Needless to say, the vast majority of sexual assault and abuse cases fulfill the requirements for both assault and battery. Most also fulfill the requirements for intentional infliction of emotional distress, though proving this claim in court can be tricky. It's important to remember that these are intentional torts, requiring a finding of intention on the offender's part.
What Is Negligence?
In addition to pursuing justice against direct offenders, New Jersey law allows survivors and their families to file suit against institutions, organizations and individuals that enable sexual abuse and sexual assault. These third-party defendant lawsuits don't rely on the intentional torts we just described. Instead, the legal theory of negligence becomes crucial.
In simple terms, negligence is the failure to uphold a pre-existing legal duty, either through a mistake, error or failure to use reasonable care in fulfilling the duty. The legal doctrine of negligence recognizes that certain people and organizations owe other people a duty to use reasonable care. This concept should be clear from the example of a physician. Doctors owe their patients a duty to comply with recognized standards of medical practice. Any doctor who violates those standards, causing harm, has committed negligence.
Just like our example of the doctor, millions of organizations, institutions and individuals owe other people a duty of care. In many cases, this duty entails an obligation to provide adequate protections against criminal activity, including sexual abuse and sexual assault.
Employers owe their employees a duty to maintain a reasonably safe workplace, one free of sex assault and sexual harassment. Churches owe their followers a duty to ensure that no priests sexually abuse children under their watch. Businesses small and large owe their customers a duty to provide adequate security.
The theory of negligence also recognizes that direct offenders aren't the only ones who facilitate sexual misconduct. The responsibility is also borne by organization, institutions, businesses and other individuals in charge of monitoring the activities of direct offenders. This is the power of the civil justice system. Despite bearing a responsibility for allowing the actions of direct offenders, most negligent third-parties will never face any liability in the criminal justice system. But in the civil justice system, these parties are still on the hook. If you or a loved one has recently been victimized in a crime of a sexual nature, it's important to understand your state's laws. From Newark and Trenton to Atlantic City and Wildwood, holding a predator criminally responsible is a key aspect of the healing process. We recommend meeting with an experienced sexual abuse lawyer who can help guide you during your recovery.
New Jersey's Sexual Misconduct Statutes
New Jersey state law divides sex-related crimes into the following five categories:
Criminal Sexual Contact
Criminal sexual contact involves intentional touching of a victim's sexual organs, the area surrounding their genitals or anus, inner thighs, buttocks, or breasts without the victim's consent.
These charges can either be crimes of the third or fourth-degree, depending on the circumstances of the incident. Third-degree crimes carry a penalty of 3-5 years in jail, while the maximum penalty for fourth-degree crimes is a sentence of up to 18 months in jail.
Endangering Welfare Of Children
This law punishes offenders who sexually abuse children, including crimes such as:
- Photographing or filming sexual abuse
- Receiving, distributing, or selling child porn
- Causing or permitting a child to engage in sexual acts if the offender knows or should know that the act may be photographed or filmed
These offenses are either 2nd, 3rd, or 4th degree - depending on circumstances. 2nd-degree charges usually involve an offender who had a legal duty to care for the child. 3rd-degree charges are against offenders who sexually abuse children but had no legal duty to care for the child. 4th-degree charges are made against those who view, possess, or reproduce child pornography.
New Jersey defines lewdness as a person committing "any flagrantly lewd and offensive act which he knows or reasonably expects is likely to be observed by other non-consenting persons who would be affronted or alarmed." Examples of lewdness in sexual abuse cases include:
- When someone exposes their private parts to someone with a mental disorder who is unable to understand the sexual context of the incident, for their own arousal or sexual gratification.
- An offender exposing their private parts when they can reasonably expect a child to observe the incident
Observation Of Sexual Contact/Reproduction Or Disclosure Of Images
This law is designed to protect victims who have had sexual photos or videos of them produced or distributed without their consent. Anyone who produces or distributes such content may be charged with a crime of the 3rd degree.
This law also punishes people who knowingly observe someone else in sexual activity without their consent.
Crimes of the third degree are punishable by 3-5 years in prison. Crimes of the fourth degree carry a prison sentence of up to 18 months.
New Jersey classifies sexual assault crimes as either 1st or 2nd degree. 1st degree sexual assaults are aggravated and involve one or more of the following, according to Section 2C:14-2 of New Jersey's Revised Statutes:
(1)The victim is younger than than 13 years old;
(2)The victim is at least 13 but less than 16 years old; and
(a)The offender is related to the victim by blood or affinity to the third degree, or
(b)The offender has supervisory or disciplinary power over the victim by virtue of the offender's legal, professional, or occupational status, or
(c)The offender is a resource family parent, a guardian, or stands in loco parentis within the household;
(3)The act is committed during the commission, or attempted commission, whether alone or with one or more other persons, of robbery, kidnapping, homicide, aggravated assault on another, burglary, arson or criminal escape;
(4)The offender is armed with a weapon or any object fashioned in such a manner as to lead the victim to reasonably believe it to be a weapon and threatens by word or gesture to use the weapon or object;
(5)The offender is aided or abetted by one or more other persons and the offender uses physical force or coercion;
(6)The offender uses physical force or coercion and severe personal injury is sustained by the victim; (7)The victim is one whom the offender knew or should have known was physically helpless or incapacitated, intellectually or mentally incapacitated, or had a mental disease or defect which rendered the victim temporarily or permanently incapable of understanding the nature of his conduct, including, but not limited to, being incapable of providing consent.
Civil Statute Of Limitations
New Jersey's powerful history of civil common law empowers sexual abuse and sexual assault survivors to file private lawsuits against the responsible parties. However, the time to pursue justice may be limited. A law known as the statute of limitations acts as a legal time limit, restricting the amount of time you have to file suit. Our experienced attorneys can help.
In New Jersey, different statutes of limitations hold for sexual assault and sexual abuse. The statute of limitations for cases of sexual assault involving adult survivors is currently set at 2 years, beginning on the date of the assault, or within 7 years of the date you realized the harm the assault has caused you, whichever date comes later.
A new law in New Jersey has expanded the statute of limitations for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Thanks to this new law, survivors have until their 55th birthday to file suit against the responsible parties, or within 7 years of the date they realize the harm the abuse has caused.
In addition to these changes, the new law is set to open a two-year window for victims who were previously barred by the statute of limitations. Within this two year window, survivors will be able to file suit over cases of child sexual abuse that occurred decades ago, even if they were previously unable to do so because the statute of limitations had already passed.
How Can Victims Get Justice?
Victims should do all that they can to hold their offender(s) both criminally and financially responsible for the extensive damages they've caused. If you or a loved one have been the victim of sexual abuse, you should contact the police if you haven't already. Additionally, a New Jersey sexual abuse lawyer can help you seek compensation for expenses related to your traumatic incident.