In approximately six weeks (on Aug. 15), New York’s Child Victims Act will take effect — just months after being signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The purpose of the law is to deal with our state’s statutes of limitations on civil and criminal legal accountability for these crimes — which are among the most restrictive in the country. Let’s take a look at what this law means for survivors of child sex abuse.
The Child Victims Act first provides a one-year window (beginning Aug. 15) that allows child sex abuse survivors to file a lawsuit against their alleged perpetrator as well as any institution (such as a church or school) that knew about the perpetrator’s actions and helped cover them up and/or did nothing to stop them. During this window, there will be no restrictions regarding when the abuse occurred or how old the survivor is currently.
Under the Child Victims Act, survivors can seek civil recourse against their perpetrators up until their 55th birthday. That’s more than three decades beyond the current cutoff age of 23. They can seek criminal prosecution of their perpetrators until they reach the age of 28.
Child abuse survivor advocates, lawmakers and others are working to educate survivors, the public and organizations that provide services to survivors about their rights under the law. As one assemblywoman from Ithaca recently wrote, “Survivors across New York state should know that after more than a decade of fighting, they can finally take steps to hold their abusers and any institution that covered up for them accountable.”
The law recognizes the reality that it often takes years and even decades for people to process and maybe even fully recognize the fact that they were abused as children — let alone to take legal action. If you or a loved one is a survivor of child sex abuse, it’s essential to learn more about your options for holding the abuser accountable. An experienced attorney can provide valuable support and guidance.