Gov. Murphy signs legislation easing time limit on sexual abuse lawsuits

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Gov. Phil Murphy has signed legislation easing restrictions on when childhood sexual abuse victims can seek damages in court.

The legislation allows child victims to sue up until they turn 55 years old or within seven years of their first realization that the abuse caused them harm. The current limit is two years. Adult victims also would have seven years from the discovery of the abuse.

The bill also would give a two-year window to victims who were previously barred by the statute of limitation. It also allows victims to seek damages from institutions.

Victims of sex abuse and advocates of the law attended the signing ceremony. Abuse victim Mark Crawford says that he has been working for the last 20 years to get the laws changed.

RELATED: New Jersey Senate votes to ease sex abuse statute of limitations 
RELATED: Law firm releases names of 311 New Jersey clergy accused of abuse 

“I’ll send a message to all institutions – No more hiding. No more concealing. No more secrecy,” Crawford says.

Crawford says that he was sexually abused when he was 15 years old by priest Kenneth Martin while attending St. Andrew Church in Bayonne. He says that like many victims, he suppressed his feelings.

“I was 36 before I spoke openly,” he says. “I did try but I was mortified.”

The law is retroactive. Victims of such trauma can file a lawsuit against an abuser starting Dec. 1.

Victims can bring a claim against their perpetrator and the organization that enabled the abuse or conspired that abuse on their timetable and not the timetable of the abusers,” says state Sen. Joe Vitale.

New Jersey now joins 40 other states that have changed the statute of limitation laws. There is already no statute of limitations for criminal charges in New Jersey.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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