Posted on Sunday, February 9th, 2020 at 9:00 pm
Since the Child Victims Act (CVA) passed in New York on February 14, 2019, thousands of victims of child sexual abuse filed lawsuits against their attackers.
The law lifted the strict statute of limitations on child sex crimes, allowing victims who were previously barred from action to file criminal charges against their abusers. The three main points of the CVA law follow:
- Opens a one-year “look back” window for anyone who was the victim of a sex crime as a child to pursue a civil claim, regardless of how long ago it happened. This affects those who were unable to file a lawsuit under the old law.
- Allows legal action against perpetrators and institutions that enabled the crimes until the victim turns 55.
- Extends New York’s statute of limitations in criminal cases, giving individuals the opportunity to pursue a felony case against their sexual abuser up until the age of 28.
With the one-year deadline quickly approaching in August, lawmakers pushed for an extension. If the new bill gets signed, it will give victims of molestation and sexual abuse an additional year to come forward and pursue civil action. Those who back the bill say it’s a necessary move because many survivors don’t know about the law yet, and some need more time to come forward.
Backlash over Governor Cuomo’s Hesitation to Support the Extension
In a joint statement issued by state lawmakers on March 4, they asked New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to consider passing the new bill. Cuomo wasn’t sure it made sense to issue an extension of the deadline. He said the one-year window was appropriate, and that’s why the law issued that specific deadline in the first place.
Multiple New York assemblywomen and a Senator, who all survived child sexual abuse, responded to Governor Cuomo that the 1,600 cases filed so far were just the beginning. They asserted that there are many other victims out there that deserve justice.
Speaking from experience, they also stated how difficult it is for a lot of people to open up about their abuse. For some, it takes years to say it out loud, let alone pursue criminal charges against their abuser. They asked that Cuomo give victims more time to come forward and seek justice when they’re ready.
The lawmakers’ statement to the Governor followed a backlash from multiple survivors throughout New York. They pointed to the fact that a lot of people are struggling to retain legal counsel or don’t realize the new law even exists. They also pointed out the state’s lack of campaigns informing the public of their rights under the Child Victims Act.
Other States Setting the Tone for the Child Victims Act Window
New York is not alone is its discussions of laws related to childhood sexual abuse and statute of limitations. Multiple states already passed laws allowing a specific window for filing lawsuits, some as long as two years, and many more are considering legislation similar to New York’s Child Victims Act.
Governor Phil Murphy signed a law allowing victims of child abuse to sue until they turn 55 years old. Those who couldn’t pursue compensation because of the strict statute of limitations now get a two-year window to file a lawsuit against their attacker and the institutions involved.
An amendment to the civil statute of limitations and passage of the California Child Victims Act allow the following:
- Victims can file a lawsuit within three years of realizing their injury or condition resulted from their childhood sexual abuse.
- For those whose statute of limitations expired, they have the opportunity of a one-year window to file a civil suit against their abuser regardless of any current statute of limitations.
State lawmakers are considering reviving the Hidden Predator Act, which provides a one-year window for victims of any age to file a lawsuit against their alleged childhood sexual abuse perpetrator and any entity associated with the abuse.
A bill that changed Montana’s sexual abuse laws includes the following provisions:
- Victims whose statute of limitations had passed could sue their abuser within a one-year window.
Childhood sexual assault victims would have until age 27 to file a lawsuit.
- A civil claim could get filed within three years of discovering the victim suffered harm from their childhood abuse.
Under the new legislation, passed last year, victims of childhood molestation and sexual abuse can file a lawsuit until April 24, 2020. The statute extension allows individuals of any age to seek justice against any person, institution, business, or corporation involved in the crime.
New York Organizations Under Scrutiny
A lawsuit filed in January 2020 against Boy Scout leader, school district employee, and former village mayor Victor Sine made headlines. The plaintiff, Scott Coats, alleged that Sine sexually abused him in the 1970s. Despite reporting the abuse to the Boy Scouts of America and the Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office in 1999, no one did anything about the accusations.
Under the Child Victims Act, he’s now able to pursue action for the horror he had to endure when he was only 13-years old. In a recent news conference, he spoke publicly for the first time about his allegations against Sine, who died in 2018.
After coming forward, Coats discovered that multiple people were aware of Sine’s abuse against children. He believed that the people who knew about the abuse were either bullied by Sine or afraid to speak up about their suspicions.
Local Cases Against the Diocese Under the Child Victims Act
A majority of cases filed in New York were against the Syracuse Catholic Diocese. Mostly filed in Onondaga County, 45 cases cited allegations under the Child Victims Act. In May, the diocese paid 79 individuals of sex abuse a total of $11 million on behalf of its Independent Reconciliation Compensation Program.
In additional lawsuits filed against the Syracuse diocese, eight priests accounted for two-thirds of the cases. The diocese publicly acknowledged all but one priest as receiving credible allegations of sexual abuse against a child. Between the eight priests, there were a total of 26 claims filed.
In total, there were lawsuits filed against 28 diocese employees. Most of them were priests, but claims also were brought against a janitor and group home worker. Nine priests accused of committing child sex abuse were missing from the diocese’s credible allegations list. One priest got reinstated after the victim decided not to cooperate in the investigation.
Of all the claims against Catholic priests, 21 of them involve abuse that allegedly happened in the 1970s. The oldest claim occurred in 1953, while the most recent allegation stemmed from abuse in 1998. Claims against the church involve individuals who were between 4- and 17- years old when the sexual abuse first started.
Help for Survivors of Sexual Abuse
If you or a loved one were the victims of childhood sexual abuse, it’s your right to seek justice against the perpetrator. The attorneys at Hach & Rose, LLP understand the devastating effects of abuse. It can negatively impact every area of your life and create long-lasting emotional pain.
With the one year “look back” window, you’re allowed to seek compensation, no matter when your abuse occurred. While we recognize that financial compensation can never fully make up for the trauma you’ve suffered, we hope it can help you find a new path forward.
You’re not in this alone. When you hire us, we’ll walk you through every step of your lawsuit, so you understand what to expect. Our compassionate, attentive attorneys will be by your side from start to finish of your case, and we’ll fight hard to pursue a fair financial award and ensure your abuser gets punished for their actions.
Our team of legal professionals is available 24/7, so you can reach us when you need us. We provide a free, confidential consultation to all prospective clients. There’s no risk or obligation in meeting with us.
The lawyers from Hach & Rose, LLP have over 100 years of combined experience, and we’ll use the full weight of our skills and resources to seek justice for you. Call us at (212) 779-0057 today, or contact us online.