Child Victims Act

After years of opposition from the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America, and the insurance lobby, the New York State Legislature has finally passed the Child Victims Act. The law gives adult survivors of child sexual abuse more time to file a civil lawsuit against their abuser, as well any public or private institution that enabled their crimes.

Child Victims Act Lawyers

The nationwide law firm of Bernstein Liebhard LLP is committed to helping adult survivors of child sexual abuse pursue justice in accordance with the New York Child Victims Act and similar laws recently enacted in other states.

If you or a loved one were sexually abused at the hands of a priest or other clergy member, a scout leader, teacher, coach, or any other trusted adult, please contact our Child Victims Act lawyers today for a free, confidential, and no-obligation case review.

Simply fill out the form on this page, or call (888) 994-5118 to contact our legal team today.

History of the New York Child Victims Act

The New York Child’s Victims Act was first brought before the state Legislature in 2006.

But because of opposition from the Catholic Church and other powerful interests, the law met defeat in New York’s Republican-controlled Senate year after year.

That all began to change in 2018, after a Pennsylvania grand jury investigation revealed that Bishops and high-ranking Catholic officials throughout the Keystone State had for decades provided cover to hundreds of predatory priests, basically granting them free rein to sexually abuse thousands of children.

Although the clergy abuse scandal in the Catholic Church had been percolating for years, the Pennsylvania grand jury was a watershed moment for survivors across the country. Shortly after the report was made public, Attorneys General launched similar probes in nearly a dozen states and momentum began to build across the country for new laws that would help victims find justice.

The New York State Senate, now controlled by Democrats, unanimously approved the Child Victims Act on January 28, 2019, while an overwhelming majority of the State Assembly voted for its passage just a few hours later.

Governor Cuomo singed the New York Child Victims Act into law on February 14th.

What the New York Child Victims Act Means for Sexual Abuse Survivors

Children who endure sexual abuse suffer from prolonged or delayed trauma, and many repress memories of their abuse for decades. Others are intimidated or shamed into silence by the powerful institutions that harbor their abusers.

As a result, most survivors reach middle-age before they report their abuse, if they report it all.

New York has long barred child sexual abuse survivors over the age of 21 from filing a civil lawsuit or pursuing criminal charges against offenders. After their 21st birthday, survivors can no longer sue the Catholic Church or other institutions that allowed the abuse to continue.

The New York Child Victims Act extends the deadline for filing civil lawsuits against abusers and private or public institutions until a survivor’s 55th birthday. It also extended the deadline for  prosecuting felony sexual abuse charges until the victims 28th birthday.

Most importantly, the New York Child Victims Act opens a one-year “look-back window” that will allow adult survivors of child sexual abuse to revive old claims that were previously barred by the statute of limitations.

Other States Consider Extending Deadlines for Child Sexual Abuse Lawsuits

As of January 2019, eight other states were considering laws that would grant adult survivors of child sexual abuse more time to file civil lawsuits.

In California, for example, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez reintroduced a bill that would create a new three-year look-back window for victims who were unable to take advantage of a one-year window the state instituted in 2003.

The previous window allowed hundreds of survivors to file Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawsuits and resulted in over $1 billion in payouts by the Catholic Church.

In Pennsylvania, several lawmakers continue to push for a two-year window that would allow now-adult victims to revive old claims. Although such a measure passed the state House in 2018, Republicans blocked a vote in the Senate.

Nine states, including Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Utah, allow adult survivors to file child sexual abuse lawsuits at any point in their lives.

Nine have also enacted legislation that allows survivors to revive old claims:

  • California, enacted 1-year window to file expired claims in 2003
  • Connecticut, revived expired claims until victim turns 48
  • Delaware, enacted 2-year window from 2007-2009
  • Georgia, enacted 2-year window from 2015-2017
  • Hawaii, enacted 2-year window in 2018
  • Massachusetts, revived expired claims against perpetrators until victim turns 53, revived claims against institutions to 7 years after discovery
  • Michigan, enacted 90-day extension for victims of Larry Nassar in 2018
  • Utah, enacted retroactive revival to age 50 and 2-year window against perpetrator only in 2016

Were You Sexually Abused as a Child? Our Attorneys Can Help.

Our child sexual abuse attorneys are ready to help adult survivors bring abusers to justice and hold institutions accountable for enabling their heinous crimes.

To learn more about your rights under the New York Child Victims Act and similar state laws, please fill out the form on this page or call (888) 994-5118 for a free and confidential case evaluation.

  1. Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General (2018) “Pennsylvania Diocese Victims Report” https://www.attorneygeneral.gov/report/
  2. CNN (January 2019) “New York passes Child Victims Act, allowing child sex abuse survivors to sue their abuser” https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/28/us/new-york-child-victims-act/index.html
  3. PBS (January 2019) “States consider easing statute of limitations on child sex-abuse cases” https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/states-consider-easing-statute-of-limitations-on-child-sex-abuse-cases
Last Modified: February 19, 2019

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