The Child Victims Act Allows Sex Abuse Survivors To Face Their Abusers In Court

Posted on Friday, March 5th, 2021 at 7:00 am    

The statute of limitations in New York requires pursuing criminal charges for sexual abuse within five years of the incident. Survivors interested in seeking financial compensation must file a lawsuit within three years of turning 18 years old. These relatively short timeframes have long prevented child sex abuse survivors from having the opportunity to hold abusers accountable for their misconduct. However, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Child Victims Act on February 14, 2019, allowing a new timeframe for initiating legal action.

Under this Act, victims of child sex abuse and their families:

  • Can file a civil lawsuit until the child sex abuse survivor turns 55 years old.
  • Have a one-year lookback window for bringing legal action against their abuser.
  • Can pursue criminal charges for occurrences of child sex abuse until they reach the age of 28.
  • Don’t have to file a notice of claim for cases involving sexual abuse against a minor.

The one-year lookback window is a vital part of the Act, giving survivors the time they need to prepare their case and face their abuser in court. The deadline was supposed to expire on August 14, 2020; however, the coronavirus made its way to the United States at the start of the year, closing down courthouses across New York. This created problems for those eager to press criminal charges and file civil lawsuits for financial compensation for their losses. Governor Cuomo decided it was necessary to extend the lookback window to January 14, 2021, providing another five months to commence legal action.

Additional Time Granted to Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

Covid-19 cases continued to spike, leading to layoffs around the state and an increased number of claims for unemployment benefits. Some people already filed lawsuits with the court but faced delays when the courthouses closed. Others haven’t had the opportunity to file and wondered if they could even afford legal fees now that they’re out of work.

With the ongoing issues caused by the pandemic, Governor Cuomo signed new legislation on August 3, 2020, pushing back the deadline for the lookback window to August 14, 2021. Survivors now have additional time to look for a job and find a way to afford legal representation. The cost of an attorney can be steep, resulting in financial hardships. With another deadline extension, sex abuse survivors can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing they have more time to prepare their legal cases.

New York Dioceses Find A Way to Keep Money Out of the Hands of Sex Abuse Survivors

The Catholic church in New York sold Fidelis Care in 2018 and created the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation to hold $4.3 billion of its insurance company’s proceeds. They made this move shortly before the Child Victims Act’s passage, legislation they tried to fight against for over a decade. The dioceses have a history of filing for bankruptcy to avoid handling individual lawsuits. Instead, these cases must go through the bankruptcy court, where the church could potentially avoid public trials.

Four New York dioceses have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after receiving hundreds of lawsuits to compensate for sex abuse victims’ various losses. Pursuing a sex abuse case in bankruptcy court means survivors will likely receive a lot less money than they deserve. The judge can only consider the church’s assets rather than assets in separate entities, such as the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation. Although this strategy is entirely legal, it does not seem fair that individuals suffering the long-term effects of abuse might not get their fair share of compensation from the dioceses.

Former Dalton School Headmaster Facing Allegations of Sexual Assault

Gardner Dunnan, the former headmaster of the Dalton School in New York City, previously faced a lawsuit in 2018 for sexual assault. However, the victim decided to dismiss the lawsuit voluntarily in March 2019. She chose to drop the case because she initially filed it in New Jersey and wanted to file in New York under the Child Victims Act after Cuomo signed it into law.

The plaintiff, known as J.S. in court documents, alleged that Dunnan sexually assaulted her during four separate incidents. According to the lawsuit, J.S. lived with Dunnan and his family between September 1986 and January 1987 when she was just a teenager. She worked as the “family helper,” caring for a newborn in exchange for free tuition.

When Dunnan’s wife found out about the sexual abuse, she asked the young girl to move out. J.S. ended up transferring to another school and sought therapy for the trauma this experience caused. She felt guilty for what happened and even blamed herself. It wasn’t until years later that she finally felt ready to face her abuser and hold him accountable for the suffering she had to endure.

Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence among child sex abuse survivors. Many don’t want to admit what happened out of shame or fear that no one will believe them. Sometimes, it takes decades before a person is ready to say out loud what they went through and seek legal action against their abuser. It’s important to know you have options for recovering financial compensation and pressing criminal charges. The Child Victims Act provides the opportunity you deserve to finally seek some closure and put this devastating experience behind you.

Contact Hach & Rose, LLP Today

At Hach & Rose, LLP, our New York City personal injury attorneys have over 100 years of combined legal experience. We know how to protect our clients’ rights and achieve favorable results in their cases. When you hire us, we will work with you closely to meet your legal needs and recover the maximum compensation you deserve for the sexual abuse you experienced as a child.

You shouldn’t have to suffer any longer. We will be your advocates and help you face your abuser in court and hold them liable for their despicable actions. Hach & Rose, LLP understands the lifelong effects of abuse. Even if your physical injuries heal, your emotional scars could last for years. You don’t have to go through this alone. We will fight by your side until the very end.

Call us at (212) 779-0057 for a free consultation if you were a victim of child sexual abuse and are ready to seek the justice you deserve.

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