In 2019, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a monumental piece of legislation called the Child Victims Act. It was a bill conceived out of pain, suffering, and heartache and considered by some to be a long-overdue piece of legislation. The measure gives child survivors of sexual abuse a new pathway to seek justice and compensation for their trauma.
The overriding goal of the bill was to allow certain time-barred cases a one-year period in which to file a lawsuit. This means that if the statute of limitations has expired on a sexual abuse case, today, there may still be hope that the victim can file a lawsuit to hold the perpetrator accountable. The heart of the legislation also includes provisions that:
The passage of this piece of legislation has resulted in a flood of new sexual abuse cases being filed in courts across the state of New York. Both small and large, these cases include not only individual alleged sexual predators, but also major organizations accused of sexual abuse, such as the Boy Scouts of America and the Catholic Church. Claims have also been filed relating to foster care abuse and sexual abuse at New York boarding schools.
By the end of 2020, news reports indicate that almost 600 sexual abuse lawsuits had been filed against the Catholic Church of Brooklyn due to the passage of the Child Victims Act. In other areas of the state, more than 3,797 new claims had been filed because of the Child Victims Act.
More claims are expected to be filed, especially due to the success of the bill and the lingering impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on slowing down the court system. Governor Cuomo has extended the amount of time that victims have to file claims under the Child Victims Act, now giving survivors until August 14th, 2021, to file a legal claim.
It is safe to say that at this point, the Child Victims Act is having a major impact on the New York legal system and is giving childhood victims of sexual abuse a voice and a new outlet for seeking justice. Too often, child victims are silenced by fear, shame, and by the fact that, as children, their credibility is often questioned. Their voices are not always heard or believed, but the Child Victims Act doesn’t shut the door to justice on them. The impact the act has had on the lives of child sexual abuse survivors has been so enormous that it can’t accurately be measured by those whose lives have been changed by it.
It is no wonder that with the success of the Child Victims Act, other survivors are now coming forward wanting their day in court as well. The Child Victims Act is causing a ripple effect, extending to other groups and communities who want to see justice done for themselves and those close to them. People who have been sexually abused as adults are pointing to the Child Victims Act, saying they want to see legislators pass something similar, offering protection to them as well. A bill called the Adult Survivors Act attempts to do just that. The legislation, which has passed the state Senate, would extend a similar one-year window to adult sexual abuse victims who have otherwise been barred by New York’s statute of limitations from filing lawsuits for sexual abuse crimes.
Supporters of the bill point to cases like those of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and gynecologist Robert Hadden as evidence of why adults need this measure to pass. In the case of Harvey Weinstein, his power and money kept women afraid and almost powerless to come forward with their sexual abuse allegations for fear he would ruin their budding careers in Hollywood. By the time sexual abuse allegations began mounting and women felt safer talking about their experiences with Weinstein, they were unable to legally hold him accountable for the alleged abuse because the statute of limitations had expired.
Advocates of the bill also point to the serious cases of sexual abuse purportedly committed by New York gynecologist Robert Hadden. Hadden has been accused of sexually assaulting more than 200 women under the guise of medical examinations. His reign of alleged terror extends back two decades, and although a 2016 plea deal required him to relinquish his medical license, he was never required to serve any jail time. Some of his alleged victims who were minors at the time of the abuse have been able to pursue claims against him thanks to the Child Victims Act, but adult survivors are still waiting for their day in court.
New York lawmakers have a unique opportunity to expand on the landmark Child Victims Act. Many survivors of sexual abuse are hoping they capitalize on it and pass the Adult Survivors Act.
If you were a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, or if your child has been a victim of abuse, the Child Victims Act may be able to help you get your day in court. Already, thousands of cases have been filed by courageous New Yorkers who have been in your shoes and know what it is like to come forward.
At Hach & Rose, LLP, we understand the bravery required to face the pain and talk about this type of traumatic event. Our experienced attorneys are committed to treating your case with sensitivity and compassion while we help guide you through the legal process towards justice.
If you are ready to talk about your situation, we are ready to listen. Call us today at (212) 779-0057. New York laws are changing. Let us help you understand what that means for your future.
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