NEW YORK, NY (06/05/2023) (readMedia)-- Today, attorneys for survivor Frank Austin filed an Adult Survivors Act complaint against Fordham University, charging that, while Austin was a student at Fordham, his roommate threatened to rape and murder him. Fordham, the complaint outlines, had written notice of the danger his roommate posed to Austin prior to the rape. "Nevertheless," his attorneys wrote, "Fordham recklessly chose to ignore these warnings, even refusing to investigate the rape after Austin informed faculty members about it, which paved the way for the second sexual assault."
Liz Roberts, CEO of Safe Horizon, put out the following statement:
"Frank Austin's filing today alleging horrific rape and sexual abuse at the hands of his roommate at Fordham is exactly why Safe Horizon fought to pass the Adult Survivors Act. Healing looks different for every survivor, but the pathway to justice that the lookback window provides can be a powerful tool to correct decades of restrictive statutes of limitations, and hold institutions accountable to prevent future abuse. Survivors have six months left to take advantage of the Adult Survivors Act before the window closes on November 23rd, 2023. We applaud Mr. Austin for his courage today, and encourage anyone else interested in understanding their new rights under the law to visit our website for more information at safehorizon.org/asa."
Safe Horizon is the largest nonprofit victims services provider in the country, and spent years advocating for the Adult Survivors Act (ASA). The ASA is the law which provides Carroll and other New Yorkers a one-year lookback window for adult survivors of sexual abuse, who are outside the statute of limitations, to sue their abuser in court – no matter how long ago the abuse happened. A survivor who was sexually assaulted when they were 18 years old or older and was time-barred, meaning barred from filing a legal suit due to the statute of limitations, can now file a civil claim, even if the statute of limitation has expired. The lookback window closes in six months on November 23, 2023. Visit Safe Horizon's website for more information about the Adult Survivors Act.
In November, Safe Horizon released a PSA campaign designed to inform adult survivors of sexual abuse about their options under the the Adult Survivors Act lookback window. The campaign includes survivors: Evelyn Yang, Drew Dixon, Marissa Hoechstetter, Donna Hylton, Alison Turkos, Audrey Johnson, Robert Bender and Alec Govi, as well as the sponsors of the legislation, Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal and Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal. The PSA aired in Times Square for a week in November and currently runs digitally on social media platforms. Over 10,000 people have viewed Safe Horizon's website with more information about the ASA in the past three months.
The ASA is based on the Child Victims Act (CVA), which both extended the criminal & civil statutes of limitations forward and created a one-year lookback window (later extended due to COVID's impact on the courts) to allow time-barred survivors of childhood sexual abuse to sue their abusers & negligent institutions in civil court. Over 10,000 survivors filed civil lawsuits in New York during the two years that the lookback window was open. Safe Horizon also released a PSA for the Child Victims Act (CVA), which applied to survivors who were under 18 years old at the time of their abuse.
Recognizing that the constrained time limits in NY's statutes were not in line with what experts understand about trauma, the legislature in 2019 passed the CVA and extended the civil and criminal statute of limitations for several felony offenses -- including extending the civil statute of limitations for Rape in the second and third degrees prospectively up to 20 years. However, the law does not apply retroactively, meaning that certain survivors who were abused prior to 2019 still have only between 1-5 years to file a civil lawsuit.
The ASA applies to Article 130 crimes, including Rape 2 and 3, criminal sex acts, among others and incest offenses in Section 255. Just like the Child Victims Act, the ASA also waives the 90-day notice of claim requirement to bring a case against a public institution.
The ASA creates new paths to justice for survivors who were denied access to our courts because of an artificially narrow statute of limitations. The law gives survivors, including people who were formerly incarcerated, individuals abused by an intimate partner, and disabled survivors, a much needed chance to hold their abusers accountable.