Safe Horizon Applauds Leg. for Expanding Survivors Rights by Extending the Child Victims Act Lookback Window

NEW YORK (05/28/2020) (readMedia)-- On Wednesday the New York State Legislature passed a one year extension to the Child Victims Act look-back window. Survivors will now have until midnight on August, 13th 2021 to file a civil case against their abusers and any institutions that may have enabled the abuse, no matter how old they are or how long ago the abuse happened.

"Safe Horizon is enormously grateful to Senate sponsor Brad Hoylman, Assembly sponsor Linda Rosenthal, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and their colleagues in the New York State Legislature for passing a one year extension to the Child Victims Act lookback window. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the ability of survivors of childhood sexual abuse to meet with their attorneys and gather evidence, and it's vitally important that they have enough time to pursue their rights. In other cases, survivors may have had difficulty finding legal representation because the defendant lacks institutional resources. We urge Governor Cuomo, who smartly extended the civil window until January 2021 via Executive Order, to sign it into law without delay. This will ensure that New York remains a leader in protecting children and creating increased paths to justice for survivors," said Michael Polenberg, VP of Government Affairs Safe Horizon.

"We wept when the New York State legislature finally passed the Child Victims Act after 13 long years, clearing a pathway for older survivors like us to finally bring our abusers to court. Now we're celebrating again because instead of fighting for another decade, just a year later lawmakers have voted near unanimously to put survivors rights first. Now we just need Governor Cuomo to seal the deal to give millions more a shot at justice. Let's not wait another minute," said Asher Lovy, Survivor and Director of Community Organizing ZA'AKAH; Brian Toale, Survivor and Manhattan SNAP Leader; Melanie Blow, Survivor and COO Stop Abuse Campaign; Mary Ellen O'Loughlin, Survivor and Executive Director The Foundation for Survivors of Abuse.

We know that victims of childhood sexual abuse may not disclose for many years or even decades. They struggle with coming to terms with the fact that a loved one or trusted adult committed such a heinous act against them. It is important to provide these victims with the time they need to disclose and to provide an opportunity for recourse. Extending the one year look back window for victims of childhood sexual abuse to pursue a civil claim is an important step forward, especially in light of the pandemic and its impact on the court system. We applaud Senator Brad Hoylman, Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal and all the cosponsors for sponsoring this legislation and urge the legislature to pass this bill and the Governor to sign it into law. - Selena Bennett-Chambers, Director of Public Policy, New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

"The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children fully supports legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Rosenthal and Senator Hoylman to extend the "look-back" period of the Child Victims Act from one year to two years. This provision will bring New York into line with the practice of many sister states, such as New Jersey, that have enacted two-year periods and, more importantly, will enhance the ability of child sexual abuse victims to seek justice from those who have caused them such grievous harm."

Bill Background:

The Child Victims Act extended the statute of limitations for criminal cases to age 28 and for civil cases to 55 for anyone aged 23, and under, the day the bill was signed on February 14th, 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 bill introduced by Assm. L. Rosenthal and Sen. Hoylman, the original CVA sponsors, (S.7082/A.9036) extends the window for another year allowing more survivors the chance to seek justice in the courts. Multi-year lookback windows give survivors access to justice given that it can take decades to grapple with the shame and guilt associated with child sexual abuse. Survivors who decide to proceed with a civil suit must also grapple with the emotional and psychological costs of holding their abusers accountable in court, which can be especially difficult if that abuser is a family member. Survivors deserve appropriate time to access their rights under the law. NY will follow other states like CA and HI, who have already extended windows for childhood sexual assault survivors.