The New York Child Victims Act (CVA) was passed in August 2019. CVA provided a one-year look-back window that allowed many survivors of child sexual abuse to bring a civil suit against their abuser and any institution that protected the abuser despite such an action being barred by the existing statute of limitations. For actions that are not barred by the statute of limitations, thanks to CVA, survivors now have until they are 55 years old to file a civil suit regardless of the amount of time that elapsed since the abuse took place.
Prior to the enactment of this law, survivors were barred from seeking redress in civil court if more than five years had passed since their eighteenth birthday. This new law acknowledged that many survivors of abuse are not prepared at the age of 23 to deal with the sexual abuse they suffered as a child. Often survivors need decades to deal with the trauma that they sustained. And even more time may be required before they are prepared to file suit against their abuser to hold them accountable. CVA recognizes that the harm experienced by child sexual abuse sufferers does not necessarily end when the statute of limitations expires but may continue throughout the survivor’s life.
Individuals who were sexually abused as children are at greater risk of developing the following conditions:
- Substance abuse (alcohol and/or drug)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Increased risk of suicide
- Issues with intimacy
- Issues with trust
- Eating disorders
- Issues with self-esteem
- Increased instability in relationships
- Sexual problems
Often these problems do not appear until long after the statute of limitations has expired, leaving survivors with no recourse. CVA attempts to address this issue.
However, COVID-19 diluted the immediate effect of this law. Due to the pandemic, New York courts suspended the filing of new cases. To address this lack of court access and the disruption of daily life caused by the virus, the New York Legislature extended the one-year window. Survivors may file civil actions until August 14, 2021. Time is running out to take advantage of this “window.” Once this window closes, you may be forever barred from seeking accountability from the person that molested you and the institution that allowed this to happen.
Often, even though there have been numerous allegations of sexual abuse, an institution fails to take action to protect children. For example, a former basketball coach at a Catholic school molested hundreds of little boys. However, despite numerous complaints over the years, the community, school, and church failed to remove this man from his position. He passed away in 1992, but the institutions that protected him remain. Under CVA, survivors may still pursue civil claims against these institutions, even though their molester is dead.
To successfully sue an institution, you must prove it was negligent. More specifically, the issue is whether the practices and procedures the institution had in place to reduce the risk of child sex abuse were adequate and whether these procedures were followed properly. Over the years, the reasonableness of the procedures has changed as society has become more aware of child sex abuse.
If your abuser is still living, there is a chance that they are still abusing children. Under CVA, an abuser can no longer hide behind the claim that the statute of limitations has expired. Bringing a suit may potentially stop your abuser from harming other children.
A man who was sexually abused by three employees of the Boys’ Club of New York in the 1970’s starting when he was just 11 years old filed suit against the Boys’ Club recently. The plaintiff had been barred from filing suit by the civil statute of limitations. But thanks to the look-back window of CVA, the plaintiff was able to sue the Boys’ Club of New York for its breach of duty and negligence.
Another survivor of sexual abuse recently brought suit against her abuser, the city of New York, and the Department of Education. The abuse took place between 2007 and 2009. The woman maintains that the school and the city acted negligently by failing to have policies and procedures in place to prevent such sexual abuse from happening to children in their care. The abuser is currently serving a 35-year prison term for abusing four girls and one boy between 2007 and 2009. One of the other female survivors already brought a civil action against the city and won a $16 million judgment.
To illustrate just how valuable CVA has been to survivors of child sexual abuse, from August 13, 2019 until December 31, 2020, alleged victims have filed 2,801 civil suits against various Catholic institutions throughout New York. Only 28 of these suits allege that the abuse took place after 2000. Thus, the overwhelming majority of these cases were time-barred by the statute of limitations and could not have been filed but for the look-back window opened by CVA.
Due to the avalanche of suits that have been filled in the wake of CVA, a number of institutions have filed bankruptcy. Four Catholic dioceses in New York State are among those that have filed.
The Boy Scouts of America is the largest institution that has sought protection in Bankruptcy Court due in large part to child sexual abuse allegations. Bankruptcy filing does not mean that a suit has no value. As one survivor said, the institution is trying to get a discount on child abuse. The lawsuits the Boy Scouts face are from across the country. As of yet, the Bankruptcy Court has not approved its proposed reorganization plan, which includes an average amount of $6,000 per claimant.
If you think that you should file suit because of child sexual abuse you endured, the time to act is now. You deserve compensation for the trauma you have suffered. While money cannot erase the physical and emotional pain, it can help you get the services you need to deal with the trauma. Call the experienced and compassionate attorneys of Hach & Rose, LLP at (212) 779-0057 to schedule a free consultation.