Abused by a Priest? Victims Compensation Fund Now Open
New Jersey residents who were sexually abused as children by priests and deacons of the Roman Catholic dioceses of Newark, Paterson, Metuchen, Camden and Trenton can now apply to receive financial compensation.
The New Jersey Independent Victim Compensation Program, run by administrators hired by the dioceses, has started accepting claims from victims.
According to Camille Biros, one of the administrators of the fund, the program is available to anyone who was sexually abused as a minor by a member of the clergy of the dioceses, no matter when the abuse occurred.
She said the first phase of the program will focus on people who “previously reported the abuse to the dioceses — those individuals will be the first to receive mailing packets from the program, claim forms to complete.”
She said on a parallel track a registration process is also underway for those who did not ever report sexual abuse as a child by a church leader.
After an initial claim has been made, “we take a look at that basic information, make a determination if they’re potentially eligible. If they are potentially eligible then we send them the claims packet as well.” She didn't describe how eligibility would be determined.
As for how many people will sign up for compensation, Biros said no one really knows, but in the state of New York, for give dioceses there have been 1,400 claims, and in Pennsylvania, where the registration process is still open, there have been 500 claims so far.
Biros declined to discuss how much individual compensation might be, but said the aggregate amount paid out for the New York Victim program is more than $230 million, and so far the Pennsylvania program total is up to $35 million in payouts.
Biros noted while fraud is a always an issue in these kinds of compensation programs, individuals who file claims are put on notice their allegations will be reported to the county prosecutor’s office where the abuse is alleged to have occurred.
She said this kind of program is very important for victims who have suffered this kind of abuse.
“It’s an acknowledgement by independent individuals, an independent program, that we believe that this abuse actually happened to them," she said.
She pointed out “in some cases it’s the first time they’re really discussing this with anybody and so it’s an acknowledgement and it’s some amount of compensation.”
The deadline for registering a new allegation is Oct. 31, 2019. The filing deadline (to have all forms submitted) is Dec. 31, 2019.
Victims of clergy sexual abuse can begin the claims process by going to NJdiocesesIVCP.com.
Biros and the other administrator, Kenneth Feinberg, have designed and administered similar compensation programs for the Penn State sexual abuse claims, the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, the BP Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Fund and the OneFund Boston (Marathon) Fund.