June 7, 2017

Assembly to Pass Legislation Extending Statute of Limitations for Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and bill sponsor Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal announced the Assembly intends to pass a bill today that would extend statutes of limitations for criminal and civil cases involving sexual abuse of children allowing victims to seek legal recourse as adults (A.5885-A, Rosenthal).

"This legislation is fundamental to ensuring that adults who were victims of sexual abuse are able to seek the justice they deserve," said Heastie. "Similarly, it will help authorities identify predators and protect other children from the lifelong toxic effects associated with childhood sexual abuse."

"Childhood sexual abuse has reached epidemic levels, and one in five children in the United States is a survivor. In New York, these children are denied justice and their predators walk free because of our antiquated statute of limitations," said Rosenthal. "Under the leadership of Speaker Heastie, the Assembly has taken an important step toward delivering that justice and making the state safer for all citizens with the introduction of this bill. I look forward to passing it into law and call upon the Senate to do the same."

Under current law, the five year limitation period commences when the victim turns 18. Under the legislation, in cases involving a felony sex crime against a minor that have a statute of limitations for criminal prosecution, the limitations period would be tolled and the five year limitations period would not commence until the victim turns 23. For civil actions involving a sex crime against a child, current law begins the statute at the age of 18. Under the bill, the opportunity to sue would be extended as well. The statute of limitation would be tolled and a lawsuit by a victim would be permitted up until the victim turns 50 years of age.

The United States Department of Justice has reported that only 10 percent of sexual predators are exposed. In response, a significant provision of this bill would provide a one-year look-back window for adult survivors who, under current law, are not able to seek recourse by civil action. This look-back window would take effect six months after the bill is signed into law.

The measure would treat public and private entities equally by removing the current notice of claim requirement for public entities. Under current law, an individual who plans to sue a public entity must notify the entity of the intent to do so within 90 days.

Additionally, the office of court administration would be required to provide training for judges concerning crimes involving the sexual abuse of minors.

Finally, the legislation would require the Courts to expedite adjudication of all cases in which previously denied claims would be revived.

Ultimately, this important legislation will finally give the child victims of sexual abuse their day in court, which has until now been almost entirely denied to them.

"Under the proposed Child Victims Act, children who are sexually abused will have considerably more time to file criminal charges or civil litigation. Existing shields against liability for public institutions will be eliminated. And critically, the bill will create a one-year window to allow survivors with expired claims to file civil litigation against their abusers and, where appropriate, the institution that turned a blind eye to the abuse. This is sound, survivor-centered legislation that puts New York firmly on the right side of history and more in line with nearly every other state in the country," said Michael Polenberg, VP of Government Affairs at Safe Horizon

"I'd like to thank Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal and Speaker Heastie for listening to the advocates and putting forward solid, survivor-centered amendments that will help people like me access the justice system and name our abusers. This legislation is a monumental step forward and will go a long way to changing the culture that keeps so many survivors and victims from disclosing their abuse. Time is running out - I call on the New York State Senate and Governor Cuomo to join in efforts to enact the CVA before the end of session," said survivor Bridie Farrell.

"The Assembly's passage of the Child Victims Act (CVA) today is a tremendous day for survivors of childhood sex abuse. One in four girls, and one in six boys will be abused in New York State - but many of them, unfortunately, will not be able to seek the justice they deserve, unless the New York State Senate stands up for survivors of childhood sex abuse," said survivor Ana Wagner.

"It is wonderful to see movement on the Child Victims Act" said Connie Neal, Executive Director of the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. "For far too long, abusers have been given cover under the current laws. Updating the statute of limitations will allow victims of childhood sexual abuse to pursue action if and when they are ready to do so."