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Child Victims Act passes in New York

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Mon, Jan 28th 2019 05:20 pm

The New York State Legislature passed the Child Victims Act on Monday. The legislation (A.2683, Rosenthal) would help survivors of childhood sexual abuse seek justice by allowing them more time to pursue legal recourse as adults.

“For too long, survivors of childhood sexual abuse have had to live with their trauma while their perpetrators escaped justice because of New York’s inadequate laws,” New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said prior to the vote. “This legislation would ensure that they are finally given their day in court and that their abusers are exposed and held accountable. The Assembly majority has passed the Child Victims Act for many years, and we are glad that working with our new partners in the Senate it will finally become law.”

Also prior to the bill’s vote, Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal said, “The Child Victims Act, a bill long championed by the Assembly, will finally be passed by both houses of the Legislature, and the gates of justice will be opened to survivors of child sexual abuse. Survivors, who have endured so much pain in their lives and have been silenced for so long, for the first time will be empowered to present their cases – publicly, in a court of law – against their abusers and the institutions that harbored them.

“While we cannot erase the past, I am so proud that, here in New York state, we are taking the side of victims and survivors, protecting children and seeing that the soul-crushing abusers are held to account."

The Child Victims Act was designed to give childhood sexual abuse survivors an additional five years to seek criminal charges against perpetrators by changing when the statute of limitations clock begins to run. Under the bill, the five-year period within which charges could be brought would not start until the victim reaches age 23, rather than 18.

For civil cases involving sex offenses against a child, the statute of limitations would be tolled, and a lawsuit by a victim would be permitted up until the victim turns 55 years of age. The legislation includes a one-year look-back window for survivors who are not able to seek recourse under current law. This one-year look-back window would take effect six months after the bill is signed into law.

The measure would treat public and private entities equally by removing the current notice of claim provisions for public entities, and further clarify that public and private entities are subject to the look-back window.

In recognition of the fact many victims have already been forced to wait years to access the justice system, the bill would give revived cases a trial preference so they move forward more quickly in court. Judges would also be required to undergo additional training concerning crimes involving the sexual abuse of minors.

In a press release following the vote, New York State Sen. Robert Ortt said, “Today’s passage of the Child Victims Act was necessary to help those who have been abused receive their day in court. The individuals who committed these despicable acts against children must answer for their actions and the public and private institutions that allowed these acts to go unchecked should be held responsible. It is my hope that the passage of this legislation will allow victims to begin the healing process following such heartbreaking acts. And I hope Assembly and Senate Democrats will recognize the narrow scope of this legislation and will work with us and work with victims so that all individuals who perpetrate such crimes are held accountable.”

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, “When we took up this fight for the Child Victims Act, none of us thought it was going to be this tough or take this long. Government has a responsibility to stand up for the survivors of these heinous crimes. That is why the Senate Democratic majority has been fighting alongside survivors and advocates for years to pass the Child Victims Acts and remove the barriers that have been protecting predators. I've been proud to work with Sen. Brad Hoylman, who has championed and shepherded this legislation, and I commend him on its passage. Justice is finally being delivered.”

Sen. Tim Kennedy said, “For years, we've stood side by side with survivors of childhood sexual abuse to demand the passage of the Child Victims Act, and with Democrats now in full control of the State Legislature, we're aggressively moving this priority forward. This vote was long overdue, and it will have a profound impact on those who for decades have been silenced from seeking justice. New Yorkers and Americans have spoken out and demanded better, and the Senate is prepared to deliver a strong message to survivors: We hear you, and your voices matter.”

Attorney General Letitia James released a statement that read, “It is unconscionable that any individual would get away with sexually abusing a child. For far too long, too many New Yorkers have dealt with the long term physical and psychological pain of this abuse – pain that has only been magnified by the lack of recourse and accountability. Today, that begins to change. The passage of the Child Victims Act will finally provide survivors with the justice they have long deserved and will serve as a loud and clear message that child abuse will never be tolerated here.” 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign the bill.

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