A new law significantly changes the legal landscape for victims of childhood sexual abuse in New York State. This new legislation modifies the limitations under the previous law. People who were victims of child sex abuse now have a better opportunity to seek compensation for the crimes that were committed against them.
On January 28, 2019, the New York State Legislature passed the Child Victims Act, extending the time a survivor of child sex abuse has to report the abuse. Governor Cuomo signed the bill into law on February 14.
Under this new law, criminal charges now can be brought until the victim turns 28-years-old. Civil charges can be brought until the survivor is 55-years-old.
The most significant aspect of this new legislation is that there is also a one year “look-back window” included. This provision allows adult survivors who were previously prohibited by the old statute of limitations from suing to bring lawsuits against the organizations that protected perpetrators.
Many survivors can prove that the abuse had been reported and that the organization knew that the abuse was taking place. If there was no action by the organization to stop the abuse, it can be held responsible and liable for damages.
Too often, organizations worked to protect their reputation, rather than taking action to stop the abuse. No arrests were made, and abusers were moved from one position to another, or even allowed to continue in the same position.
Survivors of childhood sexual abuse need a long time to process what they suffered through and be able to move forward. This new law now allows victims an opportunity to seek justice for what happened to them.
Child sex abuse survivors should consult with an experienced attorney to explore their rights and map out what legal steps they can take. Knowing your rights and the options available is important for making the correct decisions in a timely manner.
Lawyers at Weitz & Luxenberg can provide support and guidance to help you in this difficult fight to get justice and compensation, and most importantly, to protect other children. Survivors of child abuse in New York State should reach out to us to investigate their options during this window of time.
Passage of this legislation took more than 13 years due to lobbying from several institutions. The organizations believed that the danger to their groups was more important than the crimes that were forced on the children who had contact with their members.
New York State Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal, one of the bill’s main sponsors, states that “For years, well-connected and powerful institutions with much to hide blocked passage of the Child Victims Act. As a result, adults who were abused as children were denied justice in the courts and a generation of abusers escaped liability for their crimes. With the passage of the Child Victims Act into law, we throw open the doors to the halls of justice and provide survivors with the clear pathway to legal redress that has been denied to them for so long.” (1)
This law is necessary, in part, because people who suffered sexual abuse as a child face a long road to recovery. They have problems with the memories and even understanding that they are victims.
It is difficult to talk about what happened. Processing what has happened can take survivors a long time and deciding what to do about it is a difficult step.
Many times, it is not until the childhood victim has reached adulthood and begins having emotional or psychological problems, including divorce or alcoholism, that the cause is understood.
Often by the time survivors have reached the place where they can deal with what happened to them, the statute of limitations has been reached. The survivor can no longer seek legal remedies. They can’t press criminal charges, and they can no longer sue for damages. This new legislation changes those restrictions.
1. Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal. Assembly District 67. (January 28, 2019). New York State Assembly Takes Historic Vote to Pass Child Victims Act Into Law.
Retrieved from: https://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Linda-B-Rosenthal/story/84749