When someone has been sexually abused or assaulted, they should be able to turn to the courts to hold their abuser accountable. However, for years, New York’s short statutes of limitations have prevented survivors from filing civil suits against those responsible for their abuse. Currently, there is pending New York legislation that would provide time-barred adult survivors with the opportunity to pursue claims against their abusers. If you have not heard of this critical proposed measure, you will want to know: What is the Adult Survivors Act?
New York’s 2019 Sexual Abuse Law Reform Efforts
In recent years, New York has made significant progress in modernizing its sexual assault and abuse laws. Fortunately, reform efforts and movements such as “Times Up” and “Me Too” have raised sexual abuse awareness. They have also helped make clear that statutes of limitations often fail to take into account the ways in which survivors process trauma. Unfortunately, this misalignment has resulted in countless New York survivors being denied access to the legal remedies they could use to hold their abusers accountable. In 2019, lawmakers took action to address some of these issues by passing the Child Victims Act and expanding the statutes of limitations for numerous sexual assault and abuse crimes.
The Child Victims Act
Historically, New York childhood sexual assault and abuse survivors only had a narrow window of time to pursue civil action against those responsible for their harm. To help remedy this injustice, New York lawmakers enacted 2019’s Child Victims Act (CVA). The CVA provides childhood sexual abuse survivors with a longer timeframe in which to pursue a legal case against their abusers. The CVA also opened a one-year lookback period for otherwise time-barred claims to be filed by childhood abuse survivors.
Criminal and Civil Statutes of Limitations
That same year, the governor signed legislation that made sweeping changes to the statutes of limitations for criminal and civil actions related to incest, sexual assault, and other sexual-abuse related offenses. As a result, the statutes of limitations for certain sexual violence crimes were significantly expanded or eliminated.
This comprehensive statutory change was part of the state’s growing recognition of the importance of providing adult survivors adequate time to pursue legal action. It’s evident that they need more time to file claims against their abusers and have their voices heard in court. However, the newly expanded statutes of limitations are only available for cases that originated on or after the laws’ enactment dates. Consequently, adult survivors who were abused or assaulted in New York before 2019, and did not file timely claims, have been prevented from filing suit against those responsible for their harm and abuse.
The Adult Survivors Act
Like the CVA, the Adult Survivors Act (ASA) seeks to provide time-barred adult survivors with an opportunity to file a civil suit against those responsible for their abuse. Under the ASA:
- Beginning six months after enactment, New York adult, sexual abuse survivors would have a one-year window to revive civil actions that existing statutes of limitations would otherwise bar.
- Once the year period expires, the applicable statutes of limitations would again apply.
- Revived ASA cases would have a special trial preference, and the Chief Administrative Judge of the Office of Court Administration would be required to promulgate rules concerning the timely adjudication of these claims.
The Status of the Adult Survivors Act
Passing the ASA would give adult sexual abuse and assault survivors the opportunity to hold their abusers accountable and have their voices heard. The law would also extend the same rights and opportunities to adults that the state has already granted to child survivors under the CVA.
In June 2021, the New York State Senate passed the ASA. However, the bill did not make it past the State Assembly. The Act is now before the State Senate again, and this time its proponents believe it has a much better chance of becoming law.
Bonina & Bonina, P.C. Are Here to Help
For an adult survivor, the impact and consequences of sexual violence can last a lifetime. If you have been sexually assaulted or abused, you should be able to hold those responsible accountable. At Bonina & Bonina, P.C., we are experienced sexual abuse injury attorneys who understand the trauma survivors can experience and are here to help.
Contact an Experienced Sexual Abuse Injury Attorney
If you’ve been the victim of rape, sexual abuse, or other sexual violence, you want an experienced and compassionate sexual abuse injury attorney on your side. Bonina & Bonina, P.C. understand the importance of helping sexual violence survivors get the help they need for their trauma. Contact us online or call us at 1-888-MEDLAW1 to schedule your free consultation. Home and hospital visits are available. Se habla español.