NY Child Abuse Victims Empowered to Seek Justice During Pandemic
Posted on Wednesday, December 9th, 2020 at 6:30 pm
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo passed the Child Victims Act into law on February 14, 2019, empowering sexual abuse survivors to hold their abusers accountable.
Governor Cuomo said this legislation extending the statute of limitations provides the opportunity to hold sexual offenders accountable and get them off the streets.
There’s a five-year criminal statute of limitations under current New York law and a three-year civil statute of limitations. However, with the Child Victims Act’s passage, survivors can file civil and criminal lawsuits well past the deadlines, regardless of when the abuse occurred.
This legislation includes the following:
- One-year lookback window to pursue previous claims that exceeded the current statute of limitations
- File a civil lawsuit until the age of 55 for claims that haven’t exceeded the statute of limitations
- File civil claims against public and private organizations involved in allegations of sexual abuse
- Pursue felony charges against an offender until the victim turns 28 years old
- Pursue misdemeanor charges against an abuser until the victim turns 25 years old
The original one-year lookback window meant survivors could seek legal action until August 14, 2020. Unfortunately, most people were unaware of this new law, and little was done to get the word out.
Also, many people could not afford to hire a lawyer because of the expensive legal fees. Others weren’t ready to speak up about what happened and face their abusers. Although thousands of lawsuits were filed in the first few months, many other survivors are still waiting for justice.
COVID-19 Prompts First Extension of the Lookback Window
By April 2020, the pandemic had shut down most of the country. Each state issued its own stay-at-home or safer-at-home order requiring residents to go into public places only when necessary. It also affected the court system, which effectively put a hold on all child sexual abuse cases. Without access to the courts, no one could move forward with their lawsuits.
Governor Cuomo wanted sexual abuse survivors to have their days in court and pursue the justice they deserve. On May 8, 2020, he signed legislation to extend the one-year lookback window to January 14, 2021. This gave everyone more time to seek legal representation and prepare their cases for when the courts reopen. Cuomo said it would be unfair for these survivors to continue to suffer while their abusers avoid the consequences of their actions.
Another Extension to the Lookback Window Under the Child Victims Act
Although some states reopened businesses after a month or two of lockdown, there were still restrictions in place to slow the spread of coronavirus. When it became clear that COVID-19 wasn’t going away anytime soon, Governor Cuomo decided to extend the lookback window again.
This time, he announced that sexual abuse survivors would have until August 14, 2021, to pursue lawsuits. This gives extra time to those who don’t feel safe being in public places or can’t afford a lawyer after losing their jobs. It also provides time for anyone who hasn’t heard of the new law to have a chance to hold their abusers accountable for the harm they caused.
Buffalo Diocese Faces Lawsuit for Covering Up Sex Abuse
On November 23, New York State Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit against two former leaders of the Diocese of Buffalo: Bishop Richard J. Malone and retired Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Grosz.
The 218-page lawsuit claims that the diocese covered up sexual abuse accusations for two decades and failed to act on allegations against multiple priests.
The attorney general wants to ensure that Grosz and Malone are banned from working in future leadership roles with charitable organizations. After Bishop Malone resigned in 2019, Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger took over. He is also included in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also includes the following allegations:
- Lack of proper records involving priests accused of sexual abuse
- Failure to maintain contact with the offenders, including those that moved to other dioceses or ministries
- Payment of monthly stipends and health insurance to “unassignable” priests
- Failure to investigate and refer the accused to the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for removal from the diocese
- Misleading the public with inaccurate or false statements about how accusations of abuse were handled
According to legal documents, this lawsuit’s goal is to establish mandatory reporting of sexual abuse allegations to the attorney general for five years, create an independent review of how the diocese responds to sexual abuse allegations, and mandate external oversight of compliance remedial plans.
Contact Hach & Rose, LLP for Help with Your Case
If you or your loved one are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, our compassionate and highly skilled legal team will advocate effectively for your rights and fight for justice. We understand the trauma you can carry after suffering childhood sexual abuse; it can cause emotional and mental pain that lasts a lifetime. No one should ever feel afraid to speak out about what happened to them.
At Hach & Rose, LLP, we have more than 30 years of experience pursuing complex cases and will work hard to reach a positive outcome. We want to help you face your abuser and hold them accountable for what they have done. We will provide you with the compassion, support, and guidance you need to get through this. You can depend on us to stay by your side throughout your case.
Our team of dedicated attorneys wants you to begin healing and moving forward with your life. You were wronged by someone and deserve the opportunity to recover financial compensation, as well as see your abuser face legal ramifications for the crime they committed.
We want to ensure this doesn’t happen again to anyone else. Call us at (212) 779-0057 today to schedule your free consultation.