As the “Lookback Window” Closes on New York’s Child Victims Act, Many Victims Can Finally Look Forward to Their Own Closure
For the most part, their parents placed them in environments they believed to be safe. Churches. Synagogues. Schools. Boy Scouts.
And up until midnight on August 14, 2021, more than 9,000 of them filed civil lawsuits against New York institutions, organizations, and individuals, getting their complaints filed before the New York Child Victims Act “lookback window” for civil suits closed.
Child Sex Abuse Trauma Often Lingers for Decades
Many of the victims filing the suits are now in their 60s and 70s, revealing the amount of sexual abuse – or what is likely a small portion of it – that took place against our fellow New Yorkers years ago, decades even, in an era where children were watching black and white television screens depict idyllic scenes from small-town Americana, where children were safe, and adults protected them.
Except they weren’t safe or protected.
In cases where the perpetrators are now deceased, their victims are seeking recourse against the New York institutions who hired them and, in many cases, protected them. You might think that now, as adults, it would be an easy process for the victims. It’s not.
According to Child USA, the average age the child sex abuse victims disclose their abuse is, in fact, not as an adult, or a teenager, or even a young adult. It’s at age 52. In the years following the child sex abuse, many of these victims endure other problems they would not have had were it not for the abuse, such as depression, drug and alcohol abuse, self-harm, and suicidal tendencies.
Others did what they were supposed to do years ago when the abuse happened. They told a trusted New Yorker. Nothing happened.
It takes great courage for someone to come forward, no matter how long ago the child sex abuse happened, and demand justice.
Delayed disclosure in child sex abuse survivors is not about self-gain. It’s about self-preservation.
What the Child Victims Act “Lookback Window” Allowed, and What Victims Can Still Pursue
In January 2019, the New York State Legislature passed the Child Victims Act that eliminated the previous statute of limitations – a period of time that victims can file a lawsuit after an alleged incident – for filing criminal charges and civil lawsuits against accused sexual abusers and if appropriate, public and private institutions.
Now, any New York child sex abuse survivor can file a civil lawsuit seeking damages until they are 55 years old. Filing a civil suit like this requires the help of an experienced New York child sex abuse attorney. The New York District Attorney’s office cannot file a civil suit on your behalf.
This portion of the law is not subject to the “lookback window” expiration. In other words, if you are a New York child sex abuse survivor aged 55 or younger, you can still file a civil lawsuit against your abuser or an institution after August 14, 2021. Your attorney does not need to file a Notice of Claim.
The “lookback window,” which initially was in effect for one year but was extended to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, removed the child sexual abuse survivor age limit completely during this temporary lookback period. It also allowed those victims who tried to file a suit previously but waited too long an opportunity to refile and extended the same opportunity to those who had their cases dismissed because their attorney failed to file a Notice of Claim. This applies whether the civil suit is against an individual or a public or private institution.
For a criminal case, the New York Child Victims Act allows the New York District Attorney’s office to file felony criminal charges on your behalf until you turn 28 years of age and seek criminal misdemeanor charges until you turn 25. Since this is a criminal matter between the accused child sex abuser and the state of New York, you do not need to have your own attorney like you do in a civil lawsuit. However, it’s a good idea to consult with an experienced New York child sex abuse attorney to evaluate your chances of a successful civil lawsuit. They may want to closely follow the criminal proceedings as part of that evaluation while they look out for your best interests.
One important exception is this. If the sexual abuse occurred when you were younger than 11, there is no statute of limitations in New York for trying to bring criminal charges against the alleged child sexual abuser.
What Can You Do if You Know a Child Sex Abuse Survivor, Regardless of Age?
Odds are you have people in your circle of family and friends who suffered child sexual abuse. Research indicates that one out of four girls and one out of six boys are likely to experience sexual abuse as a child or before they turn 18.
Educating children about appropriate and inappropriate behavior by others is important. It will also help them be more comfortable about talking to adults about any uncomfortable experiences they have. That can be a first important step to discovering a New York child sex abuser or potential abuser before they harm other children.
If an adult confesses to you about sexual abuse that occurred as a child, it’s important that you listen and be supportive. If they tell you who the abuser is, as hard as it may be, you need to keep that information confidential. Encourage counseling with someone experienced in delayed child sexual abuse disclosure. They will know how and when to discuss possible reporting of the child sex abuse crime to the proper New York authorities or pursuing a civil case.
Finally, be an advocate for laws that continue to allow for delayed disclosure for New York victims of child sexual abuse. At Hach & Rose, LLP, we don’t believe in closing the windows of justice on this type of horrific crime against our most innocent New Yorkers.
Getting Help with a New York Child Sex Abuse Case
The worse type of theft is a stolen childhood. That’s exactly what New York child sex abusers do, and at Hach & Rose, LLP, we want to help child sex abuse victims in their pursuit of accountability and justice and help them find the closure they deserve. Our child sex abuse consultations are discreet, and they are free. Book today through our website, or give us a call today at (212) 779-0057.