Because the criminal justice system does not always protect the survivors of childhood sexual abuse, New York lawmakers passed the Child Victims Act (CVA) in 2019. This law made it easier for adults who experienced sexual abuse as children to file lawsuits against their abusers.

However, the deadline for these claims was originally August of 2020. This would have made it impossible for many victims to file timely claims. Fortunately, lawmakers recently extended the window to August of next year.

What this means for survivors

More than 2,000 brave survivors of childhood sexual abuse have filed civil claims under the Child Victims Act. But with the operations of most courts shuttered for the foreseeable future due to COVID-19, many people would not have had the opportunity for the court to hear their lawsuits. Because legislators have extended the deadline a full year, many more people can file CVA suits and have their day in court.

Due to the inherently traumatic nature of sexual assault, it may take a survivor years before they feel ready to come forward with a case. The extended window will provide more time for victims to reflect on their past, determine whether to file a lawsuit and file a claim under the CVA.

What is the process for filing a claim?

Although a civil lawsuit does not bring about criminal sentencing for perpetrators, it can hold them accountable by forcing them to pay compensation for their victims’ damages. Lawsuits also allow adults to have their day in court and face the person who harmed them in childhood. To hold a perpetrator accountable through civil court, survivors can file a Child Victims Act lawsuit in their court jurisdiction.

The legal system can feel overwhelming, especially for sexual abuse victims. It is not necessary to go through this daunting process alone. An attorney who works with adults who experienced sexual exploitation can assist with the legal process and advocate for the client’s rights.