After an over decade long battle, the New York state legislature has finally passed the Child Victims Act. The passing of this bill extends the statute of limitations for victims seeking justice for sexual abuse crimes committed against them as children. The new stipulations make the law less restrictive and more considerate of the necessary healing time needed for a survivor to come forward. The history behind getting the bill passed illustrates an uphill battle. After being shot down by the Senate in both 2017 and 2018, the bill finally passed with a unanimous vote. Now the bill is awaiting its signature from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who made it one his main goals to sign this bill into law this year.
As more victims come forward about their experiences of sexual assault and abuse, our society is becoming more aware of the prevalence of this underlying epidemic. This new legislation is a much-needed step forward for survivors and could significantly help hold abusers accountable for their crimes.
The new statute of limitations generally allows for four updates to the law:
1. In civil cases, survivors can file charges until they reach the age of 55.
This change is extremely important because often victims of childhood sexual abuse do not come forward until many years after the abuse if they do at all. According to Child USA, on average most victims refrain from reporting until age 52. Additionally, in most of these cases, the children are abused by someone they know or trust. Therefore, most victims do not come forward out of shame and fear.
2. In criminal cases, prosecutors can file charges on behalf of the complainants until they reach age 28.
In New York, this limit used to be that victims could only criminally file charges until they turned 23. A mere five years after victims legally become an adult was simply not enough time for them to recover and be ready to confront their abuser.
3. The installment of a one-year “look-back window”.
This amendment to the Child Victims act allows for victims above the age of 55 to bring their abusers to justice for one year. This amendment will start six months after the effective date of the bill. This could help bring justice to survivors in New York regardless of their current age.
4. The ability to sue both public and private institutions.
Additionally, the bill allows victims to sue both private and public institutions that allowed these types of abuse to occur and continue. Before this bill was passed, there were several hurdles that a victim had to overcome to sue a public entity, including the requirement to give notice within a short 90 days of the assault. Now, those barriers are lifted, and survivors have more time to bring their abusers to justice.
The passing of this piece of legislature marks the end to a difficult journey for survivors and politicians alike. Before this recent triumph, New York had some of the most restrictive statute of limitations for an act such as the Child Victims Act in the country, while nine states across America have no statute of limitations. The passing of this bill allows victims more time to come to terms with their abuse, get help, and ultimately fight back with legal action against their abusers.
When embarking on your journey to seek justice, it is important to consider consulting an experienced attorney early in the process and to understand the potential impact of the one year look back window on your case. Furthermore, enlisting the assistance of the right legal team when confronting an abuser in court may be significantly advantageous. Our mission-driven team of attorneys is ready and able to help you fight for justice. If you or a loved one has suffered childhood sexual abuse, please reach out and schedule a consultation. The new legislation has given another source of empowerment for survivors and our legal team is dedicated to helping you seek justice.