1 Year After the Child Victims Act, Advocates Rally to Extend Look Back Window ~ 6 Months Before Closing

Stewart-Cousins, Hoylman, Rosenthal, Biaggi, Bichotte, Cruz, Niou join Safe Horizon + survivors.

ALBANY, NY (01/28/2020) (readMedia)-- Survivors, lawmakers, advocates, and lawyers stood with Safe Horizon -- the nation's largest victim services provider -- on Tuesday to mark the one year anniversary since the Legislature voted to pass the Child Victims Act (CVA). The CVA extended the statute of limitations for criminal cases to 28 and for civil cases to 55 for anyone aged 23, and under, the day the bill was signed on February 13th, 2019. Critically, the law included a lookback window allowing survivors, over the age of 23 on the day the bill was signed, one year to file a civil case against the individual or institution that may have abused them, no matter how long ago the abuse happened. The window closes on August 13th, 2020. Safe Horizon helped lead a statewide coalition over the course of many years to fight for the passage of this historic legislation.

Since the one year window opened on August 14th, 2019 there have been over 1,400 claims filed across the state. Safe Horizon is calling for a bill held by Assm. Rosenthal and Sen. Hoylman, the original CVA sponsors, (S.7082/A.9036) which extends the window for another year, to be passed by the state legislature. Many states already have windows longer than one year, including California, North Carolina, and New Jersey, allowing survivors more time to come forward. Extended lookback windows are incredibly important to survivors as it can take years to come forward due to the shame and guilt associated with child sexual abuse. These laws give survivors the time necessary to recover and decide how to engage with the criminal justice system.

"Every survivor should be able to take the time they need to make the choice that is right for them. That's why we urge Albany to extend the lookback window under the Child Victims Act without delay," said Ariel Zwang CEO of Safe Horizon.

To ensure that survivors are educated about how the CVA applies to them, Safe Horizon has launched a wide ranging public awareness campaign with a video PSA, which has been seen nearly 300,000 times. The video is also in Spanish, Mandarin and Haitian Creole and features survivors, including four New York State lawmakers: Senator Alessandra Biaggi, Assemblymembers Rodneyse Bichotte, Catalina Cruz, and Yuh-Line Niou. After premiering in Times Square, the video PSA played in movie theaters across New York City and featured in a Facebook Ad Campaign. The Spanish version has been seen over 112,000 times. In addition, Safe Horizon also launched a webpage in English and Spanish specifically to provide detailed and unbiased information about the Child Victims Act. The page has had over 20,000 unique pageviews since launching in July.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, "One of the first accomplishments of the new Senate Democratic Majority was passage of the Child Victims Act following years of inaction by the previous majority. This historic action has empowered the survivors of child sex abuse to seek justice. I want to thank Safe Horizons for everything it does to provide essential services to survivors. The Senate Democratic Majority will continue to work with organizations like Safe Horizons to protect New Yorkers from abuse and provide survivors with the support they deserve."

State Senator Brad Hoylman said, "Since the Child Victims Act was passed one year ago today, New York has witnessed a watershed moment for survivors of child sexual abuse. I'm proud our landmark legislation has already allowed over 1,700 survivors to pursue justice against their abusers and the institutions that may have protected them, as well as increasing public safety by identifying predators who may have escaped detection. None of this progress would have been possible without the support of my colleagues in the State Senate, in particular Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, whose leadership reversed over a decade of refusal by the previous Senate majority to consider this legislation. Today's one year anniversary of the Child Victims Act is bittersweet, however, because the last year has clearly shown there is much more work required in New York to protect children and young people from the evils of sexual abuse."

"It turns out, one year is simply not enough," said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan). "One year is not enough time for many survivors of childhood sexual assault for a number of reasons: some are unaware that the window is open or about their rights within it, others are struggling to find legal representation and for many, they are still processing their own trauma and are not ready to proceed. We fought for 13 long years to open this window, and now must ensure that it remains open long enough to enable people to seek justice in the courts. These issues are complex and emotionally fraught, and we must provide survivors with the support and the time that they need to come forward. I am pleased to stand together with my partners in this truly remarkable coalition to pass my legislation with State Senator Brad Hoylman to extend by one year the window in civil cases of childhood sexual assault."

"In just the first five months of the one year look-back window of the Child Victims Act, we have already seen 1,400 lawsuits brought against abusers. The growing volume of cases signals how enormous of an impact this bill has had on the lives of New Yorkers. But our work is not done. Last week I introduced legislation with Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi that serves to support child sexual abuse victims in court, and create meaningful accountability for perpetrators. Our Delayed-Outcry bill will allow the admittance of evidence of how a sex crime victim first disclosed the abuse, regardless of when the disclosure was made relative to the crime. Unlike 48 other states, New York bars testimony of first-outcry from being admitted if the disclosure was delayed – this legislation may benefit survivors pursuing criminal cases through the Child Victims Act who are coming forward for the first time, years after the abuse has occurred. I remain committed to enacting legislation that further protects victims of child sexual abuse and holds perpetrators accountable. I am proud to have played a role in the movement that brought the Child Victims Act to fruition, and I am even prouder to stand with the community of survivors and advocates who made it happen. I thank Senator Hoylman and Assemblymember Rosenthal for their leadership on this issue, and look forward to working together in the fight to end childhood sexual violence and abuse," said State Senator Alessandra Biaggi (D-Bronx/Westchester).

"I am truly overwhelmed by the response that my colleagues and I have received regarding the Child Victims Act. I had no idea one year ago today that speaking out about something so personal would encourage people to come forward and tell their stories, and seek the justice they so truly deserve. Countless New Yorkers have benefited from this important piece of legislation, and we hope to help many more by extending the window by an additional year," said Assemblymember Catalina Cruz.

"In my career, I have had the opportunity to represent many survivors of sexual violence and child sexual abuse. The barriers to healing and justice that survivors face is unimaginable. However, with the passing of the Child Victim Act, survivors finally have hope and access to justice as they never did before," said Kat Thomas, Thomas Labarbera Counselors at Law, P.C.

"It's an incredible feeling to finally be able to offer a path to justice for survivors from the Orthodox Jewish community. Survivors used to call us, tell us their stories, and ask us if there was any way we could get them justice, and all we could tell them was that we could find them a therapist. I've seen how survivors' lives have changed just by finally having access to justice. As heartening as that is, it's even more encouraging to know that when these cases go to trial they will force a conversation in our community about abuse, reporting, and child protection that will be impossible to ignore," said Asher Lovy, Survivor.

"The first year anniversary of the Child Victim Act is approaching. It includes a one year look-back window which allows for those sex abuse victims of the past to come forward and seek their Justice as well. This law, sorely needed in New York, was a long time coming.But where are we now? How many cases have come forward to the attention of the courts? Those that have, are they legitimate or "made up"? How many settlements have occurred? Do I sense another "cover up" playing out here? Information does not seem to be forthcoming. In a State that opponents of the law cautioned it's passage would generate an abundance of false claims, or that the number of claimants could "flood" the courts, or that institutions would face bankruptcy I have heard none of that happening. So a year later I can't say much has changed. That is cause for anger,"

Mary DeSantis, Parent of a Survivor.

"It's time for lawyers to step up to represent victims of family abuse. Faith leaders and institutions are a part of the problem however, sexual assault by family members is no less traumatic. Perpetrators must be held accountable and this can only be done with access to the judicial process," said Mary Ellen O'Loughlin, Survivor.

"It was our privilege to stand with the very courageous survivors who really turned the tide in favor of the Child Victims Act. We at Call to Action also believe there remains some unfinished business in extending the Act and enabling more folks to achieve justice in their cases. And, we are prepared to join this fight during this session," said Robert Corliss, Call to Action Legislative Advocate.

"In the past year, the tide has begun to turn away from power, corruption, and indifference because of the Child Victims Act. This has been an important first step, and I know the leaders who are in front of this issue understand that we need a coordinated, 360-degree approach that includes comprehensive prevention, education, accountability, and protection so we can eradicate child sexual abuse once and for all," said Tom Andriola, Survivor.

"This anniversary is a testament to the strength and resilience that we have. This law may not take away the pain, but it issues the statement that we can continue to move forward and keep shining the light. It helps me to know this law will help many who would otherwise be sentenced to the same lack of justice and accountability that we once were," said Jason Gough, Survivor.