2019 CHANGES TO CHILD ABUSE LAW IN NEW YORK MAKES JUSTICE ACCESSIBLE FOR SURVIVORS
“What happened to you was real and you deserve justice. The State of New York and the force of its law is behind you.” – Senator Hoylman
Childhood abuse affects people across socioeconomic, educational, religious, ethnic, and geographic backgrounds. However, we commonly see that the context in which it occurs affects the victim’s ability or willingness to pursue legal action because:
- Victims are often too young to be able to identify and express what is happening let alone seek out help in the immediate aftermath
- In the majority of cases, the perpetrator is a known, ‘trustworthy’ adult, and the potential implications to the child of making an accusation against them are hugely discouraging
- Individuals or institutions (schools, religious hierarchies, police departments) may dismiss, ignore, or hide the abuse
- The shame, that perpetrators and/or institutions project on to a victim, is paralyzing
That is why the Child Victims Act is so important: often victims need time to process what has happened before they feel able to take action, and by that time (under previous regulations) the statute of limitations had run out.
That is simply not good enough, and victims deserve better. Abuse comes in many shapes and sizes, and that the lifelong impacts are wide-ranging and far-reaching, from PTSD, to depression, to substance abuse (according to the AAETS, “specialists in the addiction field – alcohol, drugs and eating disorders – estimate that up to 90 percent of their patients have a known history of some form of abuse.”)
Now, victims who were previously silenced and blocked by the statute of limitations have the opportunity to shift the shame back where it belongs – on the perpetrators and those who enabled them – and, empowerment and supported, make a fresh start.
In the past, the statute of limitations barred most survivors of abuse from ever obtaining justice.
The new Child Victims Act law will allow more survivors get justice for their experience by:
- Opening up a one-time-only, look-back window for past abuse victims to sue their abusers and the institutions that harbored them, no matter when the abuse happened or their current age;
- Extending the statute of limitations to start at age 23 for criminal cases*;
- Extending the time to file a civil case. A civil case must be brought before the child turns age 55**;
Before this law went into effect, the statutes of limitations started when the victim turned age 18.
THE LAW IS NOT RETROACTIVE EXCEPT FOR A BRIEF ONE-YEAR PERIOD. If your case would have been time-barred under the old laws, you have a one-year window to commence a civil lawsuit. The window to file a suit is between August 14, 2019 to August 13, 2020.
We are experts in victim advocacy. Our excellent, dedicated lawyers work to make sure that law enforcement pursues your case to the best of their ability, we can also help you to seek compensation for your suffering.
The Family Court Act of the state of New York defines child neglect or abuse as the act, or failure to act, by any parent or caretaker that results in the death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or exploitation of a child under the age of 18.
** Criminal Proceedings (goal is to throw the offender in jail): In NY Felony sexual offenses against children must be commenced within five years starting at the victim’s 23rd birthday. Misdemeanor sexual offenses against children must be commenced within 2 years also now starting at the victim’s 23rd birthday. There is no statute of limitations for class A and class B felony sexual offenses in NY. Under the old law, it was based on the victim’s 18th – not 23rd — birthday.
**Civil proceedings (goal is to sue the offender for money): Under the old law, civil cases for personal injuries generally needed to be brought within 3 years from the victim’s 18th birthday. In rare cases where there’s been a criminal proceeding for the most serious sex offenses, there was no statute of limitations to bring a civil case and that remains true.