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Could R. Kelly's victims gain justice under New York's Child Victims Act?

Allegations of sexual misconduct have followed R&B star R. Kelly for upwards of 20 years. Kelly, who was married to a 15-year-old girl, is accused of exercising cult-like control over women. Despite all of that, R. Kelly was never convicted of any crimes. Recently, however, Chicago prosecutors leveled 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual misconduct against him. The music icon pled not guilty before being brought into custody a second time for failure to make child support payments.

Although he was acquitted on 14 counts of child pornography back in 2008, he could face an uphill battle in the current climate. Kelly could also face a massive court fight under New York's recently passed Child Victims Act that extends the statute of limitations for survivors to seek justice through civil lawsuits.

More tools becoming available to survivors

The fallout from Hollywood sexual assault scandals and the abuse perpetrated by priests in the Catholic Church has reoriented the public's perception about how freqent and damaging sexual abuse is. Justice can now be gained through either incarceration or massive judgments that can strip high-profile personalities such as R. Kelly of the wealth they amassed while committing crimes. Kelly faces criminal charges brought on behalf of three victims who were 16 years-old and younger from 1998 to 2010, for example. 

The star came under enhanced scrutiny after emerging as the subject of a documentary called "Surviving R. Kelly" that offers testimony from women alleging sexual abuse over more than two decades. Under New York's recently passed Child Victims Act, Kelly could face an onslaught of civil litigation.  In addition to immediately extending the statute of limitations for sex assault until the victim turns 55, the new law also opens a one-year window beginning in August for survivors to bring claims regardless of how long ago they occurred.

Child Victims Act gives more time

The Child Victims Act provides much-needed civil options for abuse survivors. For example, two additional alleged victims from New York recently came forward accusing Kelly of sex crimes from the 1990s. The women, now 39 and 40 years old are well beyond the old statute of limitations, but under the new law, these survivors can now sue immediately if they choose.  Old claims that have long been blocked are now free to be pursued.

Already, New York and federal investigators are looking into the claims, and little doubt remains that Kelly's marriage to the then 15-year-old singer Aaliyah, who died in a plane crash, could be used as evidence against him at trial. Although the hit-song icon seemed beyond the law's reach after being acquitted years ago, legal and public perception about sexual predators has vastly changed. Even if Kelly overcomes the criminal courtroom standards, survivors will get a chance at civil justice by applying the Child Victims Act.

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