Filing civil claims against abusers

Filing civil claims against abusers

In “Blog post on abuse reports sparks debate” (December 28) there was a discussion about whether there is any redeeming value of alleged victims of abuse of yesteryear coming forward now “to prosecute through the media” their alleged abusers. Given that criminal prosecution due to a statute of limitations has lapsed, the merits of such “prosecution” was debated on the pages of your newspaper.

Yet may I point that to this very day, both on halachic as well as legal grounds, there may remain grounds for filing civil claims for damages against these alleged abusers. From a legal standpoint, in Georgia, Illinois, and New York there are statutes or case law that expressly provide that if a claim is time barred in court, it also would be time barred in an arbitration such as a bet din proceeding. Consequently, such claims could not be filed in order to be arbitrated. However, in other states, such as California, Connecticut, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Washington, there exists a rule that a statute of limitation is inapplicable to arbitration proceedings, such as batei din. And, therefore, to this very day, should the abuse have transpired in these states, there still would be grounds for filing civil claims for damages, and should the panel render an award it would be enforceable in civil court.

For the halachic grounds for filing a damage (nezikin) claim against spousal abusers as well as child abusers in batei din, I refer the reader to my article, which can be found at www.yutorahorg. In fact, approximately a year and half ago, a parent filed a damage claim against a teacher who allegedly abused his child in a New York bet din. More recently, a wife filed suit in a West Coast bet din against her husband, who has admitted engaging in spousal rape and the physical abuse of his wife. And generally halachah does not recognize a statute of limitations regarding such damage claims

During the last year, alleged acts of child abuse have surfaced in London, Sydney, Jerusalem and Ashdod as well as in Monsey and Brooklyn, Elizabeth, West Orange, and Teaneck. In some instances, the alleged abuse has been reported to civil authorities. However, in many cases victims and or their families have chosen to refrain from reporting the abuse. In other instances, institutions such as schools, youth organizations, and synagogues continue to protect the identity of these pedophiles.

“Awaken you slumberers from your sleep.” And then use the civil as well as halachic institutions that are readily available in order to prevent any future endangerment of the children and grandchildren of our communities.