NEW YORK, NY (04/08/2021) (readMedia)-- On Thursday, Evelyn Yang joined with other survivors of sexual violence, including Marissa Hoechstetter and Ambra Battilana-Gutierrez, Safe Horizon and Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal in support of the Adult Survivors Act (ASA): legislation that would provide a one year look back window for any survivor (18+) of sexual abuse to sue his/her abuser in civil court, even if the statute of limitations has expired. The ASA is based on the Child Victims Act under which over 5,000 survivors of childhood sexual abuse have been able to file civil suits.
Earlier this week, Harvey Weinstein filed to appeal his rape and criminal sex act conviction, further illustrating the need for a civil lookback window.
"We believe that every survivor deserves the chance to pursue justice in a way that works for them," said Liz Roberts, CEO of Safe Horizon.
"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," said Evelyn Yang.
"By passing the Adult Survivors Act, lawmakers have a chance to show victims that we matter. It is time for the law to align with our modern understanding of sexual violence. Far too often abusers and enabling institutions lack the moral courage to do what is right or commit to meaningful change. Instead they evade responsibility for the harm they've caused. This has to end. Putting the power in the hands of adult survivors would be an important step," said Marissa Hoechstetter.
"As a victim of injustice I really deeply would love to see change in the system for the future brave women that try their best to come forward and fight for themselves. I'm here to support the ASA for this reason, so that nobody will have to go through what I did even when I was the 'perfect' victim," said Ambra Battilana-Gutierrez.
"Sexual harassment and assault are pervasive problems in New York's modeling industry," said Sara Ziff, the founder and executive director of the Model Alliance. "Many survivors are time-barred from seeking justice and, in some cases, their abusers have yet to face consequences for their actions. No matter how long ago the abuse happened, all survivors deserve a chance at justice. That's why we support the Adult Survivors Act."
"Do not let these evil sexual predators get away with it -- I urge the Albany lawmakers to pass the Adult Survivors Act and give thousands of victims power. By not doing that, power is left in the hands of the predators," said Robert Druger.
"For most of my life I have had the burden of keeping hidden a shameful secret. I was the victim of a serial sexual predator who knew I was young enough to mold and manipulate, but old enough for him to avoid any legal repercussions. Up until this very year he has continued to play the system, leaving emotional devastation in his wake. My hope is to have the opportunity to bring this perpetrator to justice, something I've only dreamed of in the years following this dark episode my freshman year at college. I was a young, naive, impressionable young man. 40 years later I would like to come to the defense for my younger self. It's never too late to right a wrong," said Robert Bender.
"For far too long our justice system has failed survivors of sexual assault. Survivors have experienced horrific trauma and abuse, and many do not immediately come forward-they deserve our support whenever they decide they are ready to pursue justice. New York has made historic strides to protect survivors by passing the Child Victims Act I introduced with Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal and extending the criminal and civil statute of limitations, but we must do more. I 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.
"We know that trauma makes is difficult for survivors of sexual assault and abuse, regardless of age, to come forward. Their abusers rely on this fact, along with unnecessarily short statutes of limitation, to escape accountability and punishment. Every survivor of sexual assault has the right to be heard and to seek justice in court. And it is our responsibility as a State to provide them that opportunity. In recognition of the reality that sexual assault and abuse survivors need more time, several years ago we lengthened the statutes of limitations in certain rape cases. Yet we left a handful of survivors to contend with the old and unnecessarily short timelines. It serves the interests of justice and survivors everywhere to open this one-year window by passing the Adult Survivors Act and allow those who have been silenced first by their pain of their trauma and then by the legal system, to come forward and seek justice," said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal, Chair of the Committee on Social Services.
"People with disabilities have experienced abuse by doctors or therapists. They have been silent because they needed treatment and had a limited number of practitioners available to them. They feared rejection and retaliation by the practitioners they turned to for help. The Adult Survivors Act provides an extension of the statute of limitation. This allows more time to process the ordeal and overcome fears of coming forward," said Center for the Independence of the Disabled Executive Director Susan Dooha.
"Sexual assault is a crime with a lifelong, profound impact on survivors. This impact does not go away. Many survivors suffer long-term, chronic physical and psychological trauma. The damage to survivors' lives is not finite, and neither should the perpetrator's responsibility. That is why the Joyful Heart Foundation stands with our partners in support of the Adult Survivors Act. As we push to reform statutes of limitations across the country, this legislation acknowledges that even if the criminal justice system fails a survivor, they will still have the right to sue their accuser. Healing may look different for every survivor, and civil justice is a pathway to healing that cannot be overlooked," said Ilse Knecht, Policy & Advocacy Director for the Joyful Heart Foundation.
"The NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault is proud to support the Adult Survivors Act because we believe every survivor deserves a chance to be heard and empowered to choose their own path toward healing. By allowing survivors to seek justice in civil court, regardless of statutes of limitations, we acknowledge the reality of trauma, and that each survivor processes their experiences differently. We applaud NYS Senator Hoylman and NYS Assembly Member Rosenthal for their leadership in ensuring that our clients won't have to suffer in silence due to time barred claims, and we urge their colleagues to pass this bill promptly," said New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault.
About the ASA
The ASA - (A.648 Rosenthal/S.66 Hoylman) - is modeled on the Child Victims Act, providing 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.
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.
In 2019, recognizing that the statute of limitations were artificially low and not in line with what experts understand about trauma, lawmakers voted to extend civil statute of limitations for the several felony offenses including Rape in the second and third degrees prospectively to 20 years. However, the law does not apply retroactively, meaning that certain survivors who were abused prior to 2019, still have only between 1-3 years to file a civil lawsuit.
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 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.