Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Assembly Codes Committee Chair Joseph Lentol and Assemblywoman Margaret Markey announced overwhelming support for legislation passed this week that would grant victims of child sexual assault a greater period of time to seek justice by extending the statute of limitations for criminal and civil actions for these offenses.
"Child sexual assault is a horrific, painful crime that leaves a lifetime of scars. The goal of this legislation is to ensure that victims who have been forever traumatized must have every available opportunity to seek justice," said Silver.
Under current law, the criminal statute of limitations in child sexual abuse cases in which a victim does not report the crime to law enforcement or the statewide central register of child abuse is not applied until the victim reaches age 18. Assembly bill A.4560-B would add five years to the statute, so that the five-year statute of limitations in these cases would not begin to run until the victim turned age 23. Enactment of the legislation would mean that a child victim would have until the age of 28 to seek prosecution.
A similar extension would be provided for the civil statute of limitations. The statute of limitations in these civil cases would not begin to run until the victim turned the age of 23. Enactment of the legislation would mean that a child victim would have at least until the age of 28 to seek civil redress.
Markey said the "cornerstone of the legislation" is the provision that would give persons for whom the right to bring a civil action has been foreclosed under the current civil statute of limitations a one-year "window" from the date of enactment of the bill, regardless of their age, in which to seek damages for any past instance of child sexual abuse.
Pointing to the inability of many child victims to come forward before the current statute of limitations expires, Markey and Lentol said the bill was a critical means of giving victims a voice, particularly for those who are assaulted by people with authority over them.
"When it comes to sexual assault, no person is above the law. As children, many of these victims are fearful of coming forward," said Markey (D-Queens), sponsor of the legislation. "This bill will provide a remedy for those whose lives have been shattered by the tragedy of childhood sexual abuse. Victims of these horrific crimes will get their day in court and be able to seek the justice they have been denied for too long."
"Sexual assault against children is unacceptable. The passage of time does not dull the memories; these children will carry them for the rest of their lives," said Lentol (D-Brooklyn). "This bill will provide an outlet for people to seek redress of these grievances,"
"The pain and suffering caused by child sexual assault is an issue which has left many victims struggling to recover," said Markey. "We must help make their lives whole again. Victims must have the pain and suffering inflicted upon them acknowledged and the perpetrators must be held accountable for their acts. Only when these basic rights are accepted and addressed can victims find closure and the opportunity to rebuild their lives. We owe them the opportunity to have their voice heard."
"This legislation has once again passed the Assembly, I strongly call on the Senate to pass this measure so we can send it to the governor for his consideration," said Silver.