Hearing Monday on extending time for child sexual assault victims to sue
People who say they were sexually assaulted by Catholic clergy and others but are prohibited from filing lawsuits due to their age are expected to testify before a General Assembly committee Monday in support of a bill that would give them a 26-month window to do so.
The Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing on Senate Bill 3 at 10 a.m. in in Room 2C of the Legislative Office Building.
The bill would give those who were minor victims of sexual assault, who are prohibited by the current statute of limitations from filing a lawsuit, an opportunity to do so regardless of their age.
Some alleged victims who have waited until later in life to reveal the sexual abuse they suffered as children have discovered they are unable to file lawsuits because they did not do so by age 48, the current statute of limitations.
Gail Howard, one of the leaders of the Connecticut chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said Thursday that she and two victims of priest abuse, including John “Tim” McGuire of New London, plan to address the committee. When McGuire finally revealed he had been allegedly abused by the late Rev. James Curry when he was an 8-year-old altar boy at St. Joseph’s Church in Noank, he discovered he had missed the opportunity to file a suit by just three weeks.
According to language for Senate Bill 3, “An Act Combating Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment,” a lawsuit to recover damages for personal injury to a minor, including emotional distress, caused by sexual abuse that could not be brought by Sept., 19, 2019, because the legal action would not fall within the current statute of limitations, could file a lawsuit on or before Dec. 31, 2021.
The bill also would allow minor victims to bring a legal action at any time in their life if it concerns an incident that took place on or after Oct. 1, 2019, or occurred prior to that date and the applicable statute of limitations had not expired by Sept. 30, 2019.
If the provision is approved by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Ned Lamont, it is expected to result in alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests, nuns, deacons and bishops filing lawsuits against the state’s Roman Catholic dioceses, including the Diocese of Norwich. Some alleged victims have told The Day they would sue the Norwich Diocese if the proposed law is passed. The state’s Catholic dioceses plan to oppose the change.
The bill also would establish new requirements for businesses, organizations and state government regarding sexual harassment complaints, education and training.
It also would eliminate the statute of limitations for the prosecution of any sexual assault of a minor that occurs after Oct. 1, 2019, or for any offense committed before then for which the statute of limitations in place at the time of the offense had not yet expired as of Oct. 1, 2019.
As separate bill, SB 913, also would extend the statute of limitations for prosecuting those accused of sexual assault. A public hearing also is scheduled for this bill on Monday.
As many Catholic clergy accused of sexual abuse are now deceased, the change is not expected to result in widespread prosecution of Catholic clergy.