New York’s Child Victims Act (S2440) allows the prosecution of any past sexual abuse crime for two years, starting on August 14, 2019. Sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman (D/WFP-Manhattan) of the 27th District and signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo, the new law provides a beacon of light for those who had been denied justice through the criminal and civil court system because “their time ran out.”

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What Does the Child Victims Act Do?

Victims of child molestation have two pathways to justice – pressing criminal charges seeking jail time for offenders by filing a police report, which is forwarded to the District Attorney’s office, OR pursuing financial compensation for losses through the civil court system by contacting a civil attorney at a firm like Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb, Green & Bagley. 

Even though German studies have found the average age for reporting childhood sexual abuse to be 42 or 52, New York law previously stated survivors must come forward within five years of reaching the age of majority — by age 23. Now, thanks to the Child Victims Act, survivors have:

  • A one-year window from August 14, 2019 – August 14, 2020, to file a civil lawsuit for child sex abuse, regardless of when the incidents occurred.
  • Until age 55 to file a civil lawsuit against abusers and the institutions that protect or enable them, after the window expires on August 14, 2020.
  • Until age 25 to press misdemeanor criminal charges against child sex abusers (up from age 23).
  • Until age 28 to press felony criminal charges against child sex abusers (up from age 23).

Adult victims can sue for psychological and physical injuries related to any sex offense listed in Penal Code 130. In civil court, they can sue private and public institutions and municipalities, in addition to individual perpetrators.

The church, Boy Scouts, school districts, athletic associations, and other organizations hold insurance policies that pay large amounts for sexual abuse claims. Some of these groups are trying to file for bankruptcy, a strategic move that could delay proceedings, but will not shield them from liability. Likewise, perpetrators have tried to hide assets and leave the state, but judges have already said these moves serve no protection.

Even if you have left New York State, you are still eligible to file a lawsuit in the county where the alleged abuse took place. While it’s challenging to pursue older claims in civil court, it is possible to build on police reports, medical records, and testimony that corroborates your story. Judges and juries base their opinions on “a preponderance of the evidence,” which is a lower standard than criminal court’s “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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Why Come Forward Now?

The Child Victims Act offers a tremendous opportunity for survivors who have lived with the shame, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other effects of childhood sex abuse for years, if not decades. Within the first 24 hours, more than 400 lawsuits were filed against individual perpetrators, the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America, school districts, teachers, coaches, doctors, hospitals, daycares, foster care agencies, and at least one charge against the estate of Jeffrey Epstein.

The system is prepared with 45 specially trained judges set aside to exclusively hear the cases, ideally on a much-accelerated timeline that wraps up within the year.

If successful, a child sex abuse lawsuit can provide financial compensation for:

  • Past, present, and future medical expenses, including counseling, support groups, rehabilitation, and medication for depression, anxiety, PTSD, and substance abuse.
  • Lost past and future wages due to an abuse-related mental health disorder or disability.
  • An estimation of pain and suffering.
  • Punitive damages intended to punish large institutions for gross negligence or misconduct.

Many people find the courage and determination to come forward years later. Child sexual abuse takes a toll on personal relationships, employment, family life, and individual happiness. It could be that the issue keeps resurfacing and disrupting life during key transitions. Common triggers include: the birth of a child, a wedding, a divorce, a new job, interactions with particular groups of people, reading about a similar news story, or a counseling session with a therapist.

On a personal level, survivors can find a sense of empowerment and closure by pursuing justice now.

New York’s lookback window is not the first of its kind. California’s previous window in 2003 resulted in 1,000 child sex abuse lawsuits, including 800 charges against the Catholic Church that resulted in $700 million paid to victims. They are currently deciding whether to pass a three-year lookback window with Assembly Bill 218.

Minnesota’s three-year lookback from 2013-2016 resulted in close to 900 lawsuits. Delaware, a much smaller state, heard 150 cases in a two-year lookback from 2007-2009. After hundreds of lawsuits were filed in a 2012-2014 lookback, Hawaii opened another window from April 2018-2020. The trend unfolding across the nation sends the important message that the sexual abuse of a child will not be tolerated in the United States.

NY Attorneys Provide Compassionate Support Following the Sexual Abuse of a Child

The sexual abuse of a child is among the most heinous crimes in our society. The rush of lawsuits has proven that we have a widespread problem that must be addressed. The duty extends to anyone working with children to protect them and report known or suspected abuse.

Contact Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb, Green & Bagley, P.C. for a free consultation with NY sex abuse attorneys. If we accept your case, we ask for no money upfront. You only pay us if you win a settlement or jury award. Our phone lines are available to you in English, Spanish, or French 24/7.