New York Child Victims Act Deadline Extended Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Published on May 14, 2020 by Sandy Liebhard

Adult victims of child sexual abuse will have five additional months to file certain civil lawsuits under the New York Child Victims Act, following Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision to extend the law’s one-year look-back window for decades-old claims.

“Justice too long delayed is justice denied,” Cuomo said last Friday. “We will extend that window for people to bring their case.”

Child Victims Act Look-Back Window Expires January 14th

The New York Child Victims Act took effect on August 14, 2019 and changed the law governing child sex abuse claims in three key ways:

  • Extended the legal deadline for filing criminal felony charges against sexual abusers of children until a victim’s 28th birthday, rather than their 23rd birthday.
  • Extended the deadline to file civil lawsuits against abusers and institutions until a survivor’s 55th birthday.
  • Opened a one-year filing window to allow adult survivors of any age to file civil lawsuits for decades-old claims that would otherwise be time-barred by the statute of limitations.

The one-year filing window was set to expire on August 14, 2020. But the coronavirus outbreak has shut down courts across New York state and prevented plaintiffs from meeting with their attorneys.

“Many aspects of society have been closed down or are less operational during this pandemic, and the court system is among them,” Cuomo said. “Last year we passed the Child Victims Act in New York, which allowed survivors of sexual abuse as children to file a claim until August. Because of the reduction in court services due to the virus, we are extending that window for an additional five months, until January 14, to ensure survivors have the access to the courts that they need to file a claim and get the long-overdue justice they deserve

Proposed Bill Would Extend Look-Back Window to 2 Years

Abuse survivors and their advocates were quick to praise Governor Cuomo’s action. But even before the coronavirus outbreak shuttered state courts, many were pushing to extend the look-back window even further.

“Even with this new order, advocates still need more time,” Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan told the Legislative Gazette. “New York’s one-year window is still shorter than most other states, and after years of suffering in silence, survivors deserve more time.”

Rosenthal sponsored the New York Child Victims Act. Now she and Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan are sponsoring legislation that would extend the look-back window to two years.

“In 35 of New York’s 63 counties, there have been four or fewer CVA suits filed; in 13 counties there have been zero CVA lawsuits at all,” Hoylman said. “That’s not because child sex abuse is coincidentally less prevalent in certain counties — it’s because survivors haven’t come forward yet. They need more time.”

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