Assemblywoman Walker (D-55) announced that she helped pass legislation, known as the Child Victims Act, to enable more victims of childhood sexual abuse to face their abusers in civil or criminal court (A.5885-A). The bill, which the Assembly Majority has consistently championed, extends the civil and criminal statutes of limitations as well as institutes a one-year “look back window” during which past victims will be able to seek justice in court.
“It can take years for victims of childhood sexual abuse to be ready to file charges against their abuser, a brave act that can bring back the pain and trauma of the abuse,” said Assemblywoman Walker. “This bill gives victims more time to seek justice and help them move forward with their lives. It’s time to stop protecting the perpetrators of these unthinkable crimes.”
With over 63,000 children sexually abused each year – and that’s just the number of cases that are actually reported – it’s imperative that victims have the support they need to recover and hold perpetrators accountable, noted Assemblywoman Walker. Victims often carry their trauma with them for the rest of their lives and are more likely to struggle with drug abuse, experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and contend with severe depression. While the physical and psychological symptoms themselves are severe, many victims delay pressing charges as the majority of perpetrators are known to the child, in a position of power and may even reside in the home.
The Assembly bill would amend the criminal procedure law to extend the statute of limitations and allow criminal cases to be commenced until the victim turns age 28 for felonies and age 25 for misdemeanors. Assemblywoman Walker noted that cases for top-level sex offenses can already be commenced at any time under existing law.
The bill would also push back the statute of limitations to permit civil actions to be brought until the victim’s 50th birthday. Additionally, the measure creates a one-year window for adult survivors to revive cases that, under current law, are barred because the statute of limitations has expired. This one-year window is vitally important to allow victims who have lived with the terrible effects of childhood sexual abuse to finally seek justice in the courts.
In addition, the Child Victims Act would treat public and private entities equally by removing the current notice of claim requirement for public entities. Under current law, in most cases, an individual who plans to sue a public entity must notify the entity of the intent to do so within 90 days.
The legislation would also:
- require judges to undergo additional training for cases involving the sexual abuse of minors; and
- give the cases revived under the one-year window a trial preference so they are more rapidly moved forward in court. This recognizes that in many instances, these victims have already had to wait for years to be able to seek justice.
“There is nothing more deplorable than a crime committed against a child,” said Assemblywoman Walker. “The depraved individuals who rob children of their innocence must be held accountable, and victims should be able to tell their stories if and when they’re ready. It’s time for the state Senate to do its part and pass the Child Victims Act. Inaction is completely inexcusable.”