In early 2019, Governor Cuomo signed legislation which extends the statute of limitations for bringing cases against those who commit sexual abuse against children. The changes allow some adults to seek damages from their abusers for acts done to them as children. It also extends the statute of limitations for certain criminal sex offenses.
Why Change the Sexual Abuse Statutes of Limitation?
Experts say there is a need for a long statute of limitations in cases of child sexual abuse because it can take years for victims to come forward. Child USA reports that most child sexual abuse victims do not disclose their abuse. And if they do, on average they don’t disclose until they are 52 years old.
Marci Hamilton, CEO of Child USA and a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, indicated the bill “represents over 15 years of work by survivors and advocates trying to get around the stiff opposition from the Catholic bishops and the insurance industry.”
According to Governor Cuomo, the signing of the legislation provides necessary relief to child victims of sexual abuse by amending New York’s laws to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable for their actions, regardless of when the crime occurred.
What Are the Changes?
There are changes to the statutes of limitations for both civil litigation and criminal prosecution.
There will be no statute of limitations for serious felony sexual crimes against children, as was the previous law.
For lower-level felonies, victims can pursue criminal charges against their abusers until the victim turns 28. Previously, such charges had to be brought by age 23.
Victims can seek civil remedies against their abusers and institutions until they turn 55. Previously, such claims had to be brought by age 23.
Beginning August 14, 2019, there is a one-year, one-time-only period for all child sexual abuse victims to commence a civil action. This is regardless of when the abuse occurred.
- NYS Governor’s Press Release. “Governor Cuomo Announces 2019 Justice Agenda Accomplishments – Most Productive Legislative Session in Modern History” (June 21, 2019). Available at: https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-2019-justice-agenda-accomplishments-most-productive-legislative (last accessed July 3, 2019).
- Augusta Anthony. “New York passes Child Victims Act, allowing child sex abuse survivors to sue their abusers,” CNN.com (Jan. 28, 2019). Available at: https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/28/us/new-york-child-victims-act/index.html (last accessed July 3, 2019).
- Joseph Spector, “Child Victims Act: Four things to know about important new law in New York,” Democrat & Chronicle (Feb. 14, 2019). Available at: https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/politics/albany/2019/02/14/child-victims-act-four-things-know-new-law-new-york/2868643002/ (last accessed July 3, 2019).