Assemblyman Sayegh: Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse Have Been Denied Justice for Too Long

Assemblyman Nader J. Sayegh (D- Westchester County) announced that he helped pass the Child Victims Act to allow more victims of childhood sexual abuse to face their abusers in a court of law (A.2683). The bill extends the civil and criminal statutes of limitations, as well as institutes a one-year “look-back window” during which past victims will be able to seek justice in court. The Assembly has fought hard for this measure, and with new leadership in the Senate, the legislation is finally set to become law.

“Childhood sexual abuse is an indescribably traumatizing experience that can take a lifetime to come to terms with,” said Assemblyman Sayegh. “In many cases, it can take many years for a survivor to be ready to confront their abuser. While we cannot erase what happened, we can give power to victims and help them move forward with their lives without letting the perpetrators of these unthinkable crimes off the hook.”

More than 63,000 children are sexually abused each year – and that only includes the number of cases that are actually reported. Unfortunately, many criminals go uncharged, as the majority of perpetrators are known to the child, in a position of power and may even reside in the home. Many victims of sexual abuse carry their trauma with them for the rest of their lives and are more likely to struggle with drug abuse, experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and contend with severe depression. It’s imperative that those who were taken advantage of as children now have the protection and support they need to recover and hold perpetrators accountable, noted Assemblyman Sayegh.

The Assembly bill extends the statutes of limitations for criminal cases, allowing them to be commenced until the victim turns age 28 for felonies and age 23 for misdemeanors. Under current law, cases for the most serious sex offenses can already be commenced at any time. The bill would also push back the statute of limitations to permit civil actions to be brought until the victim’s 55th birthday. Further, the measure creates a one-year window for adult survivors to commence civil cases that, under current law, are barred because the statute of limitations has expired. This one-year window will allow victims who have lived with the terrible effects of childhood sexual abuse to finally seek the justice they’re owed, noted Assemblyman Sayegh.

The Child Victims Act also treats public and private entities equally by removing the current notice of claim requirement for public entities. Under current law, in most cases, an individual who plans to sue a public entity must notify the entity of the intent to do so within 90 days. Further, the legislation would also require judges to undergo additional training for cases involving the sexual abuse of minors and give the cases revived under the one-year window a trial preference so they are more rapidly moved forward in court.

“Abuse of any kind against a child is the most shameful, unforgivable crime,” said Assemblyman Sayegh. “It should be up to the victims who were wrongfully robbed of their innocence to decide how and when to tell their stories and pursue justice against their abusers. With the Child Victims Act set to become law, we’re finally righting a terrible wrong.”