BROOME COUNTY, NY (WETM) — At the age of 5, Jeffrey Moat was sexually abused by his uncle. The abuse ruined his childhood, leading him down a path of substance abuse.

At 15 years old, Jeffrey began drinking and using marijuana, a few years later he turned to more dangerous substances. He began isolating himself, unable to form trusting relationships fearing that he would be revictimized. “It had a profound effect on me. I mean for a child to be introduced to sexuality at five years old it was pretty damaging,” said Jeffrey.

The repercussions of the abuse stretched further than the isolation and substance abuse, he had a hard time focusing on schoolwork and keeping a steady job. Jeffrey was in and out of inpatient rehabilitation, but it wasn’t until therapy that he realized the sexual abuse he encountered at 5 years old was the root of many of his problems.

At the age of 19, Jeffrey tried to pursue a criminal complaint against his abuser but due to the statute of limitations, he was unable to. “The whole ordeal of trying to press charges against my abuser and not being able to because of the because of the statute of limitations, really made things a lot worse for me.”

In 2019, the Child Victims Act was passed in New York State, allowing survivors of child sexual abuse to pursue a civil case against a person or institution until the age 55.

Jeffrey, now 50, pursued action against his abuser in 2020, filing a civil case against him in compliance with the CVA.

Growing up in the Binghamton area, Jeffrey had a pretty close family, they’d all get together at his grandmother’s house for holidays and other occasions. Jeffreys abuser was his uncle by marriage, marrying his aunt. His uncle was around 20 years old when the sexual assault was taking place, due to the family being close; there was a sense of trust within the family to let Jeffrey go places alone with him.

“The abuse went on for a summer and I was groomed over the winter,” said Jeffrey. At one point, Jeffrey was able to tell his mother what was going on, which for the most part, ended the abuse but when Jeffreys parents confronted the uncle, he denied it. “I had to endure seeing him in our family gatherings until I was about 15 years old for about 10 more years. Of course, my mother was savvy enough not to leave me with him anymore.”

In 1988, about 10 years after he abused Jeff, the uncle was charged and sentenced to 6 months in jail for a separate abuse case. However, he is not listed on the sexual registry because that did not exist in 1988. To this day he still resides in the Binghamton area.

However, with the new CVA, Jeffrey was able to stand in front of a judge and tell his story. “Amazingly we did win. I got a $5 million judgment against him, which I probably never seen any money but symbolically I can close the door on what happened to me.” While Jeffrey feels like his childhood was taken from him, winning the civil case gave him a sense of closure.

“He didn’t do it for the money in terms of the judge’s decision, we found that the judge really evaluated this case with a level of seriousness that is required. It speaks volumes to what the court thinks about these kinds of allegations and what the court thinks about perpetrators,” said Aubrey Hetznecker, a senior associate at Schlather, Stumbar, Parks & Salk.