In the state of New York, legislators passed a law known as The Child Victims Act, or “CVA”, in 2019. The CVA extends the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse cases, so that plaintiffs have until they reach the age of 55 to file a suit. This was passed in an effort to hold perpetrators of childhood sexual abuse accountable for their actions. Individuals that suffered from sexual abuse during childhood now have more time to sue for monetary damages, so they can bring their assailants to justice. The law also allows individuals to file suit against organizations and institutions that may have been involved in the case.
If you live in the state of New York and were the victim of childhood sexual abuse, you can now file a suit, even if the statute of limitations had previously expired. If you were over the age of 55 when the CVA passed, you still have time to file a claim.
Learn more about the Child Victims Act and what it means for survivors of childhood sex abuse.
What is the Child Victims Act?
New York passed the CVA into law in 2019. The CVA extends the period during which survivors of childhood sexual abuse can file a suit in court. Previously, survivors of child sexual abuse had just 1 – 5 years to bring a civil lawsuit against their abuser once they reached the age of 18. The statute of limitations would officially expire once the person reached the age of 23. This meant that survivors only had a few years to file a claim once they reach the age of adulthood.
Some survivors may not be ready to file suit until they’ve had a chance to reflect on the experience. By the time they were ready, the statute of limitation may have already expired.
Now these individuals have the option of filing a claim until they reach the age of 55. This extension gives these individuals much more time to file a suit, as many survivors have trouble coming forward with a lawsuit or pressing charges against their abuser during the initial aftermath of the incident.
Those who were 55 or older when the law passed in 2019 have until August 14, 2021 to file a claim, even if the alleged abuse took place decades prior.
What about criminal cases?
Before the CVA was passed into law, survivors only had until they reached the age of 23 to press charges against their abuse. But now the CVA increases the statute of limitations to bring a criminal case by 5 years. This means survivors can press charges until they are 28 years old.
What if the old statute of limitations has already expired?
If the old statute of limitations of the case expired before the CVA went into law, survivors can file a suit against their abusers until August 14, 2021. The state is giving these individuals an extra year to file suit, considering the CVA retroactively revives their cases. Note: Plaintiffs previously had to file before August 14, 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic has since caused this deadline to be extended to August 14, 2021.
In all of these cases, the judge in question will receive special training on how to handle cases regarding childhood sexual abuse. This is to ensure the plaintiff receives a fair trial.
This law is designed to give a voice to those who have suffered great emotional and physical harm during the early stages of life. Many survivors choose not to come forward with a case or press charges against their abuser for a number of reasons.
Some may feel as if their case will lose in court, but these kinds of cases are being seen in a new light amid the #MeToo movement. Survivors of sexual assault now have a greater chance of bringing their assailant to justice. Many survivors of sexual assault and their allies applauded recent legal victories in the cases against Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby, a sign that the tide is turning against sexual abusers.
The overwhelming majority of victims of childhood sexual assault are female (82%). One in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult.
Many survivors won’t come forward if it means pressing charges against someone they know. The assailant knew the victim in 93% of these cases, according to The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, or RAINN. It is often a family member, friend, or neighbor that perpetrates the abuse.
Dealing with the fallout of childhood sexual abuse can be a challenge for some survivors, especially as they navigate adolescence. They may have trouble confiding in an adult at the time of the incident. Others may wait years to file a claim only to realize that the statute of limitations has passed. The CVA is here to help these individuals find restitution for the crimes that were committed against them at a young age.
Plaintiffs can now sue for monetary damages. These funds could be used to support the survivor’s education or help with their mental and physical recovery from the assault. The effects of childhood sexual assault are long-lasting. Compared to the general population, survivors are
- About 4 times more likely to develop symptoms of drug abuse
- About 4 times more likely to experience PTSD as adults
- About 3 times more likely to experience a major depressive episode as adults
Survivors can use these funds to access mental health resources, including crisis counselling and substance abuse and addiction support.
Under the CVA, survivors of childhood sexual abuse can now come forward without being afraid of being persecuted for their actions. If you or someone you know believes they are entitled to monetary damages under the CVA, contact the legal professionals at The Bongiorno Law Firm in New York, NY for more information. They will help you find out if you are eligible.
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