Adult Survivors Act Moves Closer to Becoming Law in New York State

Senate Judiciary Committee votes to approve

NEW YORK, NY (05/11/2021) (readMedia)-- Today, the Adult Survivors Act moved another step closer toward becoming law in New York State. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted the bill out of committee, and it now goes to the Finance Committee and then to a vote by the full Senate.

All eyes are now on the Assembly - and Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Charles D. Lavine - to move the ASA forward.

"Survivors of sexual abuse? who are outside of New York's civil statute of limitations, regardless of their age, deserve an opportunity to pursue justice which passage of the ASA will make possible. This important legislation for adult survivors is critical to not only holding their abusers accountable but also to their healing and having their voices heard. We urge New York State legislators to put survivors first by passing this law immediately," said Liz Roberts, CEO, Safe Horizon.

"For far too long our justice system has failed survivors of sexual assault. New York has made historic strides to protect survivors by passing the Child Victims Act and prospectively extending the criminal and civil statute of limitations for adult survivors, but we must do more for those who were shut out of the courthouse by New York's formerly inadequate statutes of limitations. I proudly stand with Safe Horizon, Assembly Member Rosenthal and so many incredible survivor-advocates in the fight to pass the Adult Survivors Act," said Senator Brad Hoylman.

"The ASA moving out of the Senate Judiciary Committee is an exciting development. This bill would not only give so many survivors their voices back with an avenue for legal recourse - it would tell survivors across the state that what happened to them matters. I'm glad to see the bill is moving forward, now we're urging lawmakers to get it over the finish line before the session ends," said Evelyn Yang.

"There is no statute of limitations on our trauma or our pain - to tell victims of a crime they are required to report within an arbitrarily amount of time only serves to protect the assailant. The ASA would open the door for thousands of survivors to get a sense of justice and closure for the crimes committed against us. I'm calling on lawmakers to make that a reality by passing the ASA now," said Tanisha Johnson.

Johnson and Yang are featured in Safe Horizon's PSA, available here.

"Our laws as they're currently written leave no recourse for people who were 18 or older at the time of their abuse and whose claims have exceeded the presently written statute of limitations. It is not as though when we turn 18 we suddenly gain the maturity, knowledge and confidence to spot and fight off abusers, or even simply recognize abuse as it is happening. As a judge and survivor of child sexual abuse who has benefited from the Child Victims Act, I know that all survivors deserve a chance at justice. The bill movement in the Senate is exciting, but survivors are counting on lawmakers to pass it into law before the end of session," said Heela Capell, a judge in the Civil Court of the City of New York sitting in the Housing Part in Brooklyn.

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 5,000 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.

According to the science of 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.

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.