"We Can't Wait": Safe Horizon, Gloria Allred, Survivors, & Lawmakers Push for Adult Survivors Act in 2022
Safe Horizon launches #TraumaTakesTime social media campaign
ALBANY, NY (01/13/2022) (readMedia)-- Today, Safe Horizon and survivors of sexual abuse including Lisa Gentile, Drew Dixon, Marissa Hoechstetter, Evelyn Yang, Donna Hylton, Carre Otis, as well as attorney Gloria Allred kicked off the new legislative session by making a hard push for the Adult Survivors Act (ASA). Joined by the bill sponsors, Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, the ASA would provide a one year look back window for any survivor who was sexually abused as an adult (18+) to sue their abuser in civil court, even if the statute of limitations has expired.
First introduced in 2019, the ASA is based on the Child Victims Act which passed the Legislature in 2019 with near unanimous support, along with legislation prospectively extending the civil and criminal staute of limitation for certain felony sex offenses including rape in the 2nd and 3rd degree. 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 NYS Senate passed the ASA unanimously last year but the Assembly failed to move it forward. On Tuesday, the NYS Senate Judiciary Committee again passed the ASA, sending it to the Finance Committee and jumpstarting the process for the legislation.
"The need for the Adult Survivors Act could not be clearer. Countless survivors have been denied the chance to seek justice in the courts. Albany can give them that chance back by passing the Adult Survivors Act, swiftly and without delay. Many survivors need years, or even decades, before they are ready to come forward and talk about their abuse. Trauma takes time – and it's about time our justice system caught up. Albany must move the Adult Survivors Act forward now so thousands of survivors can get the justice they so rightfully deserve," said Liz Roberts, CEO of Safe Horizon.
Women's rights attorney Gloria Allred and sexual assault survivor Lisa Gentile joined the call for the ASA. Gentile recently disclosed that Sex and the City star Chris Noth foricibly touched her in the early 2000s in her NYC apartment. Because of the statute of limitation on Article 130 crimes, which includes forcible touching, Gentile has no legal recourse against Noth. If the Adult Survivors Act should pass, Gentile will have a pathway to justice in the civil courts.
"Every survivor deserves a pathway to justice in the courts no matter how old they were or how long ago it happened. But across the nation, restrictive statutes of limitation routinely bar victims from justice. The Adult Survivors Act will give New York survivors the opportunity to hold individuals and institutions accountable and finally put them on notice, that protecting themselves over sexual assault victims is not an option. I'm calling on New York lawmakers to pass the ASA now, because so many survivors have already waited long enough," said Gloria Allred.
Safe Horizon and coalition partners also launched a new social media campaign to educate the public on the science of trauma called #TraumaTakesTime. The campaign explains why a survivor may not report their abuse right away and why survivors need access to civil courts. According to the well established scientific research on trauma, it can take survivors years -- even decades -- to process sexual abuse. When those survivors are ready to come forward, it may be too late due to restrictive statute of limitations on sex crimes. For some survivors who may have reported within the statute of limitation, but failed to get a resolution in the criminal justice system the ASA provides a further pathway to justice.
Carré Otis filed a lawsuit in 2021 under the Child Victims Act against her abuser, Gerald Marie. Marie raped Carré when she was 17 years old, literal months before she turned 18. It took years for Carré to disclose what had happened to her because of fears of retribution in the modeling world.
"By sheer chance of being the right age in the right place, I had standing in New York State to file a civil case against my abuser under the Child Victims Act. It's given me a pathway to justice, and it's an important part of my journey to healing. But if I had been attacked just a year later, New York law would deny me that same pathway. Every survivor – regardless of their age at the time of their abuse, or how long ago it happened – should have the same opportunity to seek justice. Lawmakers must pass the Adult Survivors Act now. The fact is there's no "right way" or "right time" to be sexually abused and our laws need to reflect survivors' lived reality," said supermodel and Model Alliance Board Member Carré Otis.
Drew Dixon was raped by Russell Simmons when she was 24 years old. She did not speak publicly about the assault until years later, when it was too late for her to seek legal recourse. She has spoken and written extensively about the unique barriers women of color face when reporting sexual assault.
"Overly restrictive statutes of limitations are inconsistent with the way the human brain responds to trauma. In order to survive during an assault, the brain compartmentalizes -repressing aspects of the experience until it is safe to remember. The ASA should be passed, because it reflects the science. It would create a one-year-look-back window for victims who were over the age of 18 at the time of their abuse and who are now outside the statute of limitations and who have healed enough to come forward. The ASA will empower survivors to correct the official record, writing our whole story and our whole selves back into existence," said Drew Dixon.
Marissa Hoechstetter and Evelyn Yang were both abused by their OBGYN while pregnant. Marissa and Evelyn disclosed their abuse years later, even working with the Manhattan District Attorney's office only for their abuser to get a slap on the wrist. The United States Attorney for the Southern District has re-opened the case in response to their activism.
"As one of more than 200 women seeking justice against a sexually abusive Columbia University OB/GYN, I have experienced wide-spread systemic failures by to protect women, girls, and pregnant patients during some of the most intimate and vulnerable periods of our lives. In order to stop serial sexual abuse, we need a public reckoning for those institutions that fraudulently conceal violence and protect predators. We're not asking the legislature to weigh in on the merits of our cases, we're asking for access to the courts. We're asking for the right to keep fighting for justice. By passing the Adult Survivors Act this session, New York can unequivocally say that no matter their age, each victim's voice deserves to be heard. It's beyond time to show survivors that they matter, that we all matter," said Marissa Hoechstetter.
??"As one of dozens of survivors of sexual assault by former OB/GYN Robert Hadden, I know how it feels to hold a terrible truth and decide to speak it out loud. It takes time. If and when someone chooses to come forward, their pathway to justice should not be time barred or limited to results from a fraught criminal justice system. Survivors deserve an opportunity to be heard in their own time. With the Adult Survivors Act, New York has the opportunity to provide ALL survivors access to justice. Albany lawmaker must prioritize survivors and pass this bill as soon as possible," said Evelyn Yang.
Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal sponsor the legislation in the Senate and Assembly.
State Senator Brad Hoylman, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said: "New York must follow the lead of states like New Jersey and recognize through the Adult Survivors Act that sexual abuse survivors haven't been treated fairly due to unreasonably short statutes of limitations that prevent their cases from being adjudicated. Some estimate as many as 63% of assaults go unreported, many victims need years to come forward, years not granted by the old statutes of limitations. It takes time for survivors to process their trauma, it's on us to make sure New York's laws reflect that reality. I'm proud that just this week I've moved the Adult Survivors Act through the Judiciary Committee and it's now poised for passage by the full State Senate thanks to the efforts of survivors, Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and my Senate colleagues. I look forward to this bill becoming law this legislative session."
"Unless you've experienced sexual assault or abuse, it's not for you to say when a survivor should be ready to disclose their abuse. The Adult Survivors Act recognizes that 'trauma takes time' and provides survivors of sexual assault with a pathway to justice when they are ready, not when the law or their abusers think they should be ready. Predators like Harvey Weinstein, Dr. Hadden and even Donald Trump have used New York's unnecessarily short statute of limitations as a shield, and it is time we deny them their hiding place. It is time the State Senate and Assembly pass the ASA," said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan), Chair of the Committee on Social Services.
About the ASA
The ASA - (A.648 Rosenthal/S.66 Hoylman) - is the next important step that the New York State legislature must take to reform the State's long-outdated statute of limitations for survivors of sexual violence. Modeled on the Child Victims Act, the ASA would provide a one-year lookback window to survivors who were abused when they were 18 years old or over. If passed, adult survivors would have one year in which to file a civil claim -- no matter how long ago the abuse happened -- even if the statute of limitations has expired.
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, which has allowed over 10,000 survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file civil lawsuits to date. That same year, the Legislature 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 would also waive the 90 day notice of claim requirement to bring a case against a public institution.
The ASA will create new paths to justice for survivors who were denied access to our courts because of an artificially narrow statute of limitations. The bill will give all 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.