QOTD: Institutions Exaggerate the Impact of SOL Extensions

In a copy of her testimony, provided to the Forward ahead of the hearing, [Yeshiva University Professor of Law, Marci V.] Hamilton said civil litigation in the United States has led to only two bankruptcies, both voluntary and intended “to protect assets and avoid trials that would have revealed the Roman Catholic bishop’s secrets regarding their role in endangering children.”

In her book, “Justice Denied,” Hamilton said there “should be no arbitrary and rigid time frame that permits the multimillionaire parent or wealthy institution that fostered the sex abuse to believe their assets are wholly protected from the victims they destroyed.

From an article in The Forward about hearings on the proposed NYS Child Victims Act, also known as the Markey Bill which would extend the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse occurring after the act goes into effect and would create a one year window for civil suits for abuse which occurred before the act is passed. It is this one year window that the Catholic Church and Agudah fears. They resent the idea that their successful coverups until the SOL expired could now be reopened and expose them to liability.

By the way, SOL is not a concept in Jewish jurisprudence. There is no statute of limitations in halachah (religious law). Jewish law enumerates five types of damages: nezek (actual destruction), tzar (pain), ripui (costs of medical treatment), sheves (loss of work time), and boishes (shame). Incredibly, child sexual abuse is one of those rare forms of damage that can simultaneously lead to claims in each of these categories.

Beit din (religious court) is usually not competent in evaluating these sorts of claims. Most individuals who are sued in Beit Din refuse to answer the hazmana (summons). When they do render verdicts they tend to limit judgements to costs of therapy for a few years ignoring the other four relevant categories in halachah.

Incidentally, I heard of one parent who sued a yeshiva to waive his tuition arrears because his child was abused by one of their teachers. In effect he argued, you can’t ask me to pay to have my kid abused. I am told a beit din accepted the argument though the amount awarded was trivial in relation to the whole bill.

At this point, I believe we will not see institutions, whether Catholic or Jewish, being responsible about stopping abuse until they know they will have to face financial consequences.

Above all, we need to expose the molesters who are shielded by existing statutes and we need to give older victims a chance to get some financial compensation to assist them in coping with the damage inflicted by their abusers.

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