By State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal
A window to long-overdue justice just opened in New York for survivors of child sexual abuse, thanks to the Child Victims Act (S.2440 / A.2683), legislation we sponsored.
Until earlier this year, our state had among the worst laws in the country for survivors of child sexual abuse. New York’s statute of limitations was so tilted against survivors that most had no later than until their 23rd birthday to file criminal charges against their abusers, or until their 21st birthday to file a civil lawsuit.
The Child Victims Act changed that by increasing the criminal statute of limitations by five years and giving survivors the ability to sue their abusers or the institutions that enabled them until their 55th birthday – ensuring that future survivors have more time for legal recourse.
On August 14, one of the most important provisions of the Child Victims Act took effect: a one-year window during which adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse for whom the civil statute of limitations has already expired will be able to file lawsuits against their abusers and the people or public or private institutions that intentionally or negligently enabled the abuse.
The “revival window” law, which several other states including New Jersey enacted earlier this year, will give survivors barred by New York’s formerly inadequate statute of limitations a fair shot at justice, while also likely identifying hundreds of hidden predators. In 2003, when California passed a similar law, over 300 child sexual abusers were identified in court.
On the first day the window opened, over 400 lawsuits were filed across New York State, and attorneys representing survivors claim to have hundreds more ready to be filed in the coming days and weeks.
The defendants include Catholic priests and other members of the clergy, teachers, Boy Scout troop leaders, coaches, counselors and doctors. The revival window has even allowed survivors to sue the estate of Jeffrey Epstein, who died days before the window opened.
The volume of lawsuits already filed demonstrates how badly the revival window was needed by generations of survivors who had been failed by New York’s law.
Anyone who thinks they may qualify to file a lawsuit during the Child Victims Act’s revival window should learn more information about the law and consider consulting an attorney, particularly one with experience in litigating child sexual abuse cases and working with survivors. Organizations like Safe Horizon, which routinely work with survivors, have resources to help you determine whether legal action is right for you, and what to consider when choosing an attorney to represent you.