WBAL-TV, NBC-11 [Baltimore MD]
May 9, 2023
By David Collins
New law eliminating statute of limitations for sexual abuse lawsuits takes effect Oct. 1
Attorneys put the Archdiocese of Baltimore on notice for lawsuits months before a new state law eliminates the statute of limitations for sexual abuse lawsuits.
Ben Crump, who’s best known for representing victims of police brutality, attorney Adam Slater and a number of survivors held a news conference Tuesday morning in front of the Baltimore Basilica, the first Roman Catholic cathedral built in the United States. The attorneys said the lawsuits will be filed individually, and some will be filed against people not publicly named in the state attorney general’s report.
The Maryland Attorney General’s Office spent years on its investigation, and the resulting report paints a damning picture of the archdiocese, which is the oldest Catholic diocese in the country and spans much of Maryland. The report found more than 150 Catholic priests and other Maryland clergy sexually abused more than 600 children and perpetually escaped accountability.
| LIST: Report lists abusers by name
| LINK: Attorney General’s Report: Child Abuse in the Archdiocese of Baltimore
The attorneys on Tuesday called on the archdiocese to make this wrong right.
“You cannot outrun the trauma that was inflicted, no matter how hard they tried,” Crump said. “Many of them — for years, for decades — believed it was their fault.”
The lawsuits will not be filed until the new state law eliminating the statute of limitations on lawsuits takes effect on Oct. 1. Under the previous law, victims couldn’t sue after turning 38. Gov. Wes Moore signed the Child Victims Act of 2023 into law last month.
The Maryland Catholic Conference, which represents the three dioceses serving Maryland, opposed the measure. It argued that the retroactive window was unconstitutional and cited the potentially devastating impact it could have on the Archdiocese of Baltimore and other institutions. In anticipation of a court challenge, lawmakers included language in the bill that would further delay lawsuits until the Supreme Court of Maryland can determine whether it’s constitutional.
| I-TEAM VIDEO BELOW: Ads spike interest in lawsuits over clergy sex abuse
“As these survivors will tell you, there is no statute of limitations on the pain and damage they experienced,” Crump said. “There should be no statute of limitations on justice.”
“What do all these cases have in common? All of the victims and survivors were either incapable of providing consent, either because of their age or because they’re vulnerable,” Slater said.
Survivors at the news conference, some who spoke out publicly for the first time, shared stories of stolen innocence and betrayal. They said their abusers used faith and the victims’ private terror of being violated and afraid to tell anyone about it. They explained how difficult it was to get anyone to believe them.
“Nobody could understand why I was so angry, but it felt like if I laid down on a psychiatrist’s couch that once I opened my mouth, I was never going to stop screaming,” said Tanya Allen, a child sexual abuse survivor. “I’m just glad to be here today to be the voice for the voiceless. I’m not ashamed of what happened to me. I’m not the one that should be ashamed.”
“What’s worse than a lie? That is to tell the truth and have nobody believe you,” Crump said.
| VIDEO BELOW: Moore signs Child Victims Act, eliminating statue of limitations