CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — A big deadline is looming for victims of clergy sexual abuse in New Jersey. A compensation fund for victims of sexual abuse is about to close down its registration, making it one less option for victims seeking justice.
“This priest came into my life, he was stationed in our parish,” Mark Crawford said.READ MORE: Car Crashes Into Storefront In Philadelphia's Oxford Circle Neighborhood
For most of Crawford’s teenage years, he was manipulated and sexually abused by a Catholic priest.
“As time went on and I began to withdraw, he became more controlling, angry and even at times, violent,” Crawford said.
As Crawford grew older, he became an advocate for other victims.
With his help last year, New Jersey enacted a game-changing new law that temporarily removes the statute of limitations for victims of sexual abuse to sue their attackers and the organizations that shielded them.
“Victims today, there is light at the end of the tunnel,” Crawford said.
In an effort to limit lawsuits, all five of New Jersey’s Catholic dioceses agreed to an independent victim compensation fund.READ MORE: Man Killed, 16-Year-Old Student Shot In Head After Fight Near Lincoln High School, Philadelphia Police Say
So far, the program has received 560 claims and resolved 69 cases — authorizing payment for more than $11 million.
But the deadline to file a new claim is on Friday.
“The program offers a speedier option for all claimants. We don’t require the level of corroboration and supporting documentation, witnesses, etc., that a court of law would provide,” Camille Biros, the fund’s co-administrator, said.
The program can resolve claims much faster than individual lawsuits, but the results are binding, the payouts tend to be lower and the church doesn’t have to admit any wrongdoing.
Attorney Greg Gianforcaro, who represents hundreds of victims, warns against the fast money.
“And for those that really want information, the only way to really get it is through litigation,” Gianforcaro said.MORE NEWS: SEPTA Riders Held Up Phones As Woman Was Raped On El Train In Upper Darby, Authorities Say
The victim compensation fund closes on Friday. There is still more time to register and victims can do so by clicking here.