Assemblymember Hunter: Child Victims Act Enables More Victims to Hold Their Abusers Accountable in Court
ssemblymember Pamela J. Hunter (D-Syracuse) announced that she helped pass the Child Victims Act, which empowers more victims of childhood sexual abuse to hold their abusers accountable in civil or criminal court by extending the civil and criminal statutes of limitations (A.5885-A). It also creates a one-year “look back window” during which past victims can seek justice in court.
“Victims of childhood sexual abuse deal with an unimaginable amount of physical and emotional trauma, and it can take years before they’re ready to face their abusers in court,” said Hunter. “By extending the statute of limitations, we can hold more perpetrators accountable for their horrific crimes and give more victims an opportunity to see justice served.”
Childhood sexual abuse survivors often bear the emotional scars of their victimization for their entire lives and are more likely to struggle with drug abuse, experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and contend with severe depression.1 The majority of perpetrators are known to the child making it all the more difficult to come forward at the time of the abuse or soon after.2
The Assembly bill would amend the criminal procedure law by allowing criminal cases to be commenced until the victim turns 28 for felonies and 25 for misdemeanors – as well as pushing back the statute of limitations to permit civil actions to be brought up until the victim’s 50th birthday. The measure also creates a one-year window for past sexual abuse victims to commence a civil action. This would permit courts to consider claims by victims that were previously dismissed or were not brought at all due to the limitations previously contained in the law. In addition, the Child Victims Act would treat public and private entities equally by removing the current notice of claim requirement for public entities.
The legislation would also:
- require judges to undergo additional training for cases involving the sexual abuse of minors; and
- give these revived civil cases a trial preference so they are more rapidly moved forward in court. This recognizes that in many instances, these victims have already had to wait for years to be able to seek justice.
The Child Victims Act has broad, bipartisan public support, with nearly 80 percent of New Yorkers supporting the measure.3
“While it may be easy to think that these despicable crimes can’t happen in our backyard, recent reports show that sadly this is not true,” said Hunter. “The Child Victims Act will support the victims in our community and in neighborhoods across the state, give them a voice and let them know we’re listening.”
Hunter has worked tirelessly to ensure sexual abuse victims have access to support services and resources, as well as crack down on the perpetrators of these crimes in New York State. She sponsored legislation that would require transportation employees who interact with the public to undergo human trafficking recognition training (A.7725-A). In addition, Hunter is co-sponsoring a bill that establishes the crime of child sex trafficking (A.6823-B).