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Survivors get hope as New York passes Child Victims Act

Despite opposition from church leaders and the insurance industry, New York ultimately passed the Child Victims Act in late January. The CVA allows survivors of childhood sexual abuse a broader window to seek justice.

Various versions of the bill had been languishing in the state legislature for years. Tough opposition from the Catholic Church and other lobbies provided enough resistance to prevent the child abuse legislation from reaching Gov. Andrew Cuomo's desk before finally become law this session.

Law gives child victims time to process

Suppressed trauma and fear of confronting abusers often plague victims of childhood sexual assault well into adulthood. The Child Victims Act creates more opportunity and a critical window for victims to gain the courage to come forward about their traumatic experiences. Specifically, the Child Victims Act:

  • Allows for prosecution of mid and lower-level felony criminal charges until victims turn 28 years old. It was previously 23.
  • Provides victims of child sexual abuse the opportunity to seek civil lawsuits against abusers and institutions until they turn 55 years old.
  • Creates a onetime look-back window, starting this year, for victims to file civil litigation against abusers even if the statute of limitations has expired.

Many institutions still failing to protect youth

Despite decades of pressure on institutions such as the Catholic Church, allegations of sexual predators being shielded from prosecution continue to emerge. Advocates for victims have fought an uphill battle to secure a pathway to justice for those who endure a lifetime of PTSD and other debilitating conditions caused by childhood sexual abuse.

Lawsuits can create accountability

Prosecutors face significant challenges proving the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard in pursuing criminal charges in older cases. However, civil lawsuits against sexual predators rely on a "preponderance of the evidence." In some cases, survivors are able to obtain a measure of justice and help enact reforms through civil litigation, rather than through the criminal justice system.

The look-back window begins this August and will remain open for one year. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse are urged to come forward. Predators deserve to be punished to the full extent of the law and victims deserve to get help in overcoming issues caused by childhood sexual abuse.

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