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Window Opens to File Abuse Claim

People conferring about a case.

There are many reasons that victims of childhood sexual abuse may not have filed charges against their abusers. One reason could  be that the time allotted by a statute of limitations has run out. But the Child Victims Act, passed in August 2019, gives childhood sexual abuse victims an additional year, known as a “lookback window,” to press civil charges against an abuser.

52-year-old Kevin Dow was an altar boy in his childhood church in upstate New York. The priest he worked with, Fr. George, sexually abused him and his brother, Dow said.

“Me and my brother Chris, we were altar boys for a long time, and we had complained to my mom about Fr. George, who was a priest who molested and abused us. He would pull us into his office and close the door and try to French kiss us, and we would always try to pull away,” Dow said.

The abuse went on for years, he says, with no one in his family coming forward. When Dow, who now lives in Tampa, heard about the Child Victims Act, he decided to look into his own case.

Attorney Jennifer Freeman of the Marsh Law Firm represents victims with sex abuse claims. She wants Floridians who may have been abused in New York to know about this recent change in the law.

“What I hope is that residents of Florida, and all the other states, who used to live in New York, become aware of the Child Victims Act, and they take action. That they learn about the statute and if they want to bring a claim, that they bring it,” said Freeman.

A lawsuit may be against an institution rather than an individual.

“In many instances, the person is no longer with us. But in other cases, we have an institution. That really is who should have protected the children. Who should have protected that person from getting abused,” she went on to say.

Dow said he hopes the church will take responsibility for the abuse that happened under its roof.

“I don’t think they’ve been held accountable. I don’t think they’ve admitted to their wrongdoings yet. I believe they owe apologies to their victims. Heartfelt apologies. You know, I just don’t think they understand how much this affects the victims,” said Dow.

The deadline to file a claim in New York is August 13 of this year.