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Will New York Sexual Abuse Survivors Get a Second Chance at Justice?

AMG has been closely following the progression of New York’s Adult Survivors Act. Earlier this month, the New York State Senate unanimously passed the Adult Survivors Act (S66) with a 62-0 vote in its favor. The bill will now proceed to the Assembly. If passed, New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, would need to sign the bill for it to go into effect.

What Is the Adult Survivors Act?

Under the Adult Survivors Act, those who suffered from sexual abuse when they were 18 and older would have an opportunity to file a civil lawsuit regardless of when the sexual assault took place

This act impacts cases whose statute of limitations has already expired and would normally be barred from proceeding. Qualifying cases would also be granted trial preference in New York courts.

The bill will provide a one-year window for anyone to have ever experienced a sexual assault in the state of New York to file a civil lawsuit. The one-year window will begin six months after the bill passes.

Why Do Victims Need the Adult Survivors Act to Pass?

In New York, victims of sexual assault generally only have three years from the date of their assault to file a civil lawsuit. There are exceptions. In late 2019, Governor Cuomo signed legislation so that victims of certain rapes and other sex crimes would now have 20 years to bring a civil suit in court. After the passage of the applicable statute of limitations, victims are usually unable to pursue a civil claim in court to hold their assailants accountable and to seek compensation for their harm.

It is now well understood that many victims take a long time to process the trauma of what happened and to speak about their experience.

Victims may hesitate to report their abuse out of fear of retaliation, a misplaced sense of shame, or for other religious and personal reasons.

Does This Bill Extend to Victims Of Childhood Sex Abuse?

The Adult Survivors Act only applies to those whose abuse occurred when they were 18 years or older. In 2019, a similar bill passed in New York that addressed child sex abuse survivors.

The Child Victims Act had likewise granted a one-year window for filing civil lawsuits that otherwise would have been barred by New York’s statute of limitations, which has since expired. However, the 2019 bill permanently extended the time for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file a lawsuit. Previously, survivors had to bring a lawsuit prior to turning 23 years old, but now have until they are 55 years old.

What Should Abuse Victims Know?

If the bill passes, the window for adult survivors of sexual abuse to file a civil lawsuit will only last for one year. Therefore, it is important for survivors to start considering whether they are ready to take legal action against their abuser and to watch this bill as it proceeds through New York’s government. We encourage you to speak with an experienced attorney who has handled sexual assault claims in a confidential consultation to discuss your options given your specific situation.

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