Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and bill sponsor Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal today announced the Assembly has passed legislation to bring justice to victims of childhood sexual abuse by extending statutes of limitation for criminal and civil cases, and allowing victims to seek legal recourse as adults (A.5885-A, Rosenthal).
"Today's legislation is critical to ensuring that child sexual abuse survivors have access to the justice system and are able to hold their abusers accountable," said Speaker Heastie. "With this legislation, we can take steps towards changing the culture that too often silences these vulnerable victims, keeping them from disclosing their abuse and seeking legal recourse as adults."
"Once again, the Assembly proves that it stands with New York's children and their families by voting to pass the Child Victims Act. The CVA will ensure that adults who were sexually abused as children have a path to justice, and it will help make every New Yorker safer. New York's current, outdated law actually protects predators, and we must join the other states that have bravely taken a stand against powerful child predators by finally enacting the CVA into law," said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal, chair of the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.
Under current law, the five year limitation period commences when the victim turns 18. Under the legislation, in cases involving a felony sex crime against a minor that have a statute of limitations for criminal prosecution, the limitations period would be tolled and the five year limitations period would not commence until the victim turns 23.
The legislation would also expand opportunities for civil actions involving a felony sex crime against a minor by allowing victims to sue their abuser up until the victim turns 50 years of age. Under current law, the statute of limitations for such civil cases is also five years and commences when the victim turns 18.
While survivors spend their entire lives coping with the effects of childhood sexual abuse, too often their abusers remain free to harm other victims. To bring justice to these survivors and root out serial abusers, the bill also includes a one-year window for adult survivors to revive cases that, under current law, are barred because the statute of limitations has expired. This window would take effect six months after the bill is signed into law.
The Assembly's proposed legislation would also:
"Safe Horizon applauds the New York State Assembly, especially bill sponsor Linda Rosenthal and Speaker Carl Heastie, for yet again passing the Child Victims Act and standing with survivors," said Michael Polenberg, VP of Government Affairs at Safe Horizon. "The Child Victims Act will increase avenues to justice for survivors, protect children across the state, and help ensure abusers will be brought to justice. It's time the State Senate sides with the Assembly and Governor Cuomo and protects those who have been abused, not their abusers."
Connie Neal, Executive Director of the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence said, "The experiences of survivors of domestic violence and child abuse are inextricably linked. It's common for years to pass before many victims, particularly young people, are ready to disclose abuse. Passage of the Child Victims Act will provide victims with the time they need and deserve to come to terms with their abuse and pursue legal action when they are prepared to do so."
"The NYS Assembly clearly believes survivors. Today, they stand with us and the 90 percent of New Yorkers who support the Child Victims Act. The Assembly is known as The People's House and this landslide vote clearly illustrates how connected they are to the needs of their constituents. I thank Speaker Heastie, bill sponsor Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal and all those who voted yes on CVA," said survivor Bridie Farrell.
"Today the New York State Assembly made significant strides for the Child Victims Act. As a child, I did not possess the maturity or ability to understand that I had been deeply traumatized by the actions of my abuser nor did I have the vocabulary to properly express the harm that had been inflicted upon me. Healing these deep seeded wounds is a life-long process. I am hopeful that the State Senate will follow the Assembly's lead and pass the CVA," said survivor Thomas Travers.
"I am so grateful that the NYS Assembly stands with survivors. The NYS Senate must get on the right side of history and stand with those who have experienced unspeakable damage. The time to pass the Child Victims Act with the window is now," said survivor Amelia Fallon.