Child Victims Act: What It Is and Why It’s Important

Posted on Tuesday, March 31st, 2020 at 3:41 pm    

Despite becoming effective in August 2019, many people still haven’t heard about the Child Victims Act that New York Governor George Cuomo passed over a year ago. It’s a groundbreaking new law that extends the deadline for childhood sexual abuse victims to bring criminal charges against their abusers.

The three main elements of the Child Victims Act are:

  • Allows a one-year “lookback” window to pursue civil action regardless of when the abuse occurred
  • Extends the statute of limitations for felony sex crimes until the victim turns 28 years of age
  • Allows those sexually abused as children to seek civil action against the abuser and institutions involved until the victim turns 55 years old

The deadline for the “lookback” window is going to expire in August 2020, and with the development of the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers are seeking an extension. Members of Congress and CVA activists discussed the lack of campaigns notifying people of the new law. That, along with the coronavirus stalling court proceedings across the country, an extension to the deadline is essential.

Governor Cuomo Open to Discussing an Extension

State lawmakers issued a statement earlier in March regarding the passage of the proposed CVA deadline extension. Cuomo had argued that the one-year window was plenty of time for victims to pursue legal action and file lawsuits. However, with COVID-19 shutting down businesses and interfering with court cases, lawmakers reopened the discussions.

Several New York Assemblywomen and a state Senator spoke from their own experiences with childhood sexual abuse. They said it’s difficult for most people to open up about their abuse, and sometimes it could take years before victims are willing to come forward with their allegations.

Even though the one-year window began in August 2019, there are still a lot of people who aren’t aware of the new law. The state of New York failed to issue campaigns notifying the public of their new rights under the Child Victims Act. Many don’t realize they’re allowed to file a lawsuit even though the original statute already passed. Others are having trouble seeking legal representation or can’t afford to hire a lawyer right now.

Now that COVID-19 is affecting ongoing lawsuits and preventing new ones from getting filed, lawmakers believe now more than ever that an extension is crucial. They want to give victims more time to seek the justice they rightfully deserve. Adding another year to the CVA could accomplish that.

Recent Lawsuits Filed Under the Child Victims Act

Four people accused a former teacher at Maine-Endwell School District of sexual abuse when they attended the school in 1970. In the lawsuits, the victims claimed that they reported the abuse to the principal, but there was no investigation performed or police complaints filed. The lawsuits cite negligence on the part of the school district for failing to investigate and report the alleged sexual abuse properly.

Another school district faces lawsuits from multiple survivors of sexual abuse. One of them alleged that between 1990 and 1991, an employee of the school repeatedly abused them sexually. The school provides education and housing for students with learning disabilities. All the survivors stated in their lawsuits that the school failed to prevent the abuse from occurring and gave their negligent employees access to minors.

Another individual filed a lawsuit that a camper and resident at Forest Lake Camp repeatedly sexually abused them over 45 years ago. During the ongoing abuse, the camp’s employees were given access to minor children. The survivor reported that no one did anything to stop the abuse from occurring, and the camp negligently hired abusive counselors.

A woman came forward accusing David Rockefeller’s chauffeur of molesting her when she was only seven years old. Her lawsuit states that Luis Oliveira sexually assaulted her in the living quarters she shared with her mother on the Rockefeller property. She said the family ignored warnings from other workers about the employee’s inappropriate behavior and failed to protect her.

In 1980, well-known author Marc Gafni allegedly molested a 13-year-old girl. The woman stated when she was 13, Gafni would sneak into her room and grope her over a period of nine months. Another woman filed a lawsuit against the author, claiming that he touched her against her will when she was 16 years of age.

Catholic Dioceses Face Allegations of Sexual Abuse

A majority of initial lawsuits filed under the Child Victims Act were against multiple Catholic dioceses throughout New York. Since the new law passed, there were hundreds of cases stating priests and other members of the church sexually abused children, and the number of cases continues to grow.

Initially, the Independent Reconciliation Compensation Program paid 79 victims a total of $11 million. There were lawsuits filed against 28 diocese employees, most of them being priests. A group of home workers and a janitor also faced legal action for their role in the sexual abuse of minors.

Due to the increasing number of allegations and compensation sought by all the victims, the diocese in both Buffalo and Rochester ended up filing for bankruptcy. They chose to go down the path of bankruptcy to protect them and redirect future cases to the bankruptcy court.

Stand Up to Your Abuser with Help from Hach & Rose, LLP

You deserve to pursue justice for the despicable actions of your abuser. No child should ever have to go through such a traumatic experience as sexual abuse. It causes devastating effects and can impact someone for the rest of their life.

Hach & Rose, LLP knows how difficult it is to discuss your experiences. We provide a safe and comfortable environment for our clients. We will treat you with compassion and understanding while reviewing the details of your case. It’s our mission to recover the maximum compensation owed to you for the horrible events you experienced as a child.

If you want to speak with one of our experienced lawyers, contact us today at (212) 779-0057 to schedule a free consultation. There’s no risk to meet with us and receive valuable legal advice. We’ll advise you on your options and help guide you towards the decision that works best for you.

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