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Survivors of child sex abuse filed lawsuits Wednesday against the Catholic Church, Boy Scouts, and other organizations under a New York State law that extended the time allowed to pursue cases.

As soon as the state Child Victim’s Act went into effect, survivors’ attorneys filed the cases seeking justice for hundreds of decades-old allegations of abuse, many of them on Long Island.

“For years this law has been hard fought so that survivors on Long Island could hold their abusers accountable and seek justice,” said Jennifer Freeman of Marsh Law Firm, a sexual abuse attorney who represents hundreds of plaintiffs who filing suit under the new law. “That moment is now here. Sexual predators and large institutions have attempted to hide heinous abuse for too long, and today, we can begin to heal the pain and suffering our clients onLong Island have experienced over decades.”

Survivors were previously time barred by New York State’s previous statute of limitations. Marsh and Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala are two leading firms suing the institutions.

Defendants include the Diocese of Rockville Centre, Good Shepherd Parish and Church in Holbrook, Holy Trinity High School in Hicksville, St. Andrews Parish and Elementary School in Sag Harbor, St. Barnabas Parish and Church in Bellmore, St. Hyacinth Parish and All Saints Regional Catholic School in Glen Head, St. Josephs Parish and Church in Babylon, St. Lawrence Parochial School in Sayville, St. Patricks Parish and School in Bay Shore, and St. Philip and St. James Church in St. James.

The cases allege that clergy members were often allowed to retain their status in the church after they were credibly – and in some cases, repeatedly – accused of inappropriate sexual contact with children, attorneys say.

In addition to these suits against the Catholic Church, the law firm will also represent survivors in legal action against the Boy Scouts of America, Rockefeller University, schools, foster care facilities, and other religious institutions.   

The new law allows opens a one-year window for victims to file suit in casss where the statute of limitations expired, allows victims to commence a civil lawsuit at any time before they reach 55 years of age, eliminates the need to file a notice of claim for sexual offenses committed against a minor, requires judicial training with respect to crimes involving the sexual abuse of minors, and authorized the Office of Court Administration to promulgate rules for the cases’ timely adjudication.

“Child sexual abuse is a real epidemic” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who signed the law in February. “It’s been in the corners and in the shadows, but it is much more widespread than people want to admit … Children have legal rights, and if you abuse a child, you’re going to have your day in court and you’re going to be called to answer for it.”

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