Today, after over a decade of opposition, the Child Victims Act successfully passed both houses of the State Legislature for the first time. Governor Cuomo, a supporter of the bill, is expected to sign it into law.
The Child Victims Act (CVA) will expand the statutes of limitations for survivors of child sexual abuse civilly and criminally from age 23 to 55 and 28, respectively. It will also provide a one-year lookback window to allow survivors with expired claims to seek justice and and eliminate the requirement to file a notice of claims within 90 days of the date of harm at public institutions.
1 in 4 girls, and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Children with disabilities are 2.9 times more likely than children without disabilities to be sexually abused.
The CVA has faced previous opposition in the Republican controlled Senate where it languished for 13 years as well as from the Roman Catholic Church, Boy Scouts, and Agudath Israel. The bill passed twice previously in the past two years in the Assembly with bipartisan support. The Governor also included it in his budget this year and last.
“For more than a decade, the leadership of the New York State Senate prevented common-sense statute of limitation reform for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Meanwhile, children across New York did not have the full array of protections to keep them safe from harm. Today, with new leadership in the Senate, the NYS legislature will vote to pass the Child Victims Act into law and create meaningful paths to justice for survivors. By identifying those who prey on children, the law will also help keep New York communities safer. Safe Horizon is proud to have helped lead a statewide coalition effort to bring this long overdue reform to New York, and we applaud Sen. Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and the bill sponsors Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal and Senator Brad Hoylman for their bold leadership and commitment to justice,” said Michael Polenberg, VP of Government Relations for Safe Horizon.
For decades, New York has lagged behind most other states with one of the most repressive statutes of limitations in the country. Eight states plus Guam, have already revised their statutes of limitations and opened a window for time-barred claims. Hawaii has even extended its look back period.
“Government has a responsibility to stand up for the survivors of these heinous crimes. That is why the Senate Democratic Majority has been fighting alongside survivors and advocates for years to pass the Child Victims Act and remove the barriers that have been protecting predators for too long. I’ve been proud to work with Senator Brad Hoylman, who has championed and shepherded this legislation, and I commend him on its passage. Justice is finally being delivered,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
“For too long survivors of childhood sexual abuse have had to live with the trauma inflicted upon them while their perpetrators escaped justice because of New York’s inadequate laws. With this legislation, brave survivors will finally get their day in court and their abusers will be exposed and held accountable. The Assembly Majority has passed the Child Victims Act for many years, and I am glad that working with our new partners in the Senate we will finally have a law,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.
“The doors to justice have been dead-bolted to survivors of child sexual abuse for decades, but now finally they will swing wide open. Passage of the Child Victims Act has always been both a moral and legislative imperative in the Assembly, and now New York State is standing unified, together with survivors, in their quest to publically name their abusers and the institutions that harbored them,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF- Manhattan), Assembly bill sponsor. “Once signed into law, survivors will finally have access to our courts, and to redress for the horrors they have endured.”
“For years, survivors of child sexual abuse have looked to Albany for justice but their pleas have gone unanswered in the New York State Senate. The impasse ends today under Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. Finally, survivors will have the opportunity to seek justice against their abusers and hold any institutions who harbored them accountable. We would not be here today without the fierce advocacy of survivors across New York State. When the political leaders in this state refused to listen, you bravely told your stories. You demanded action. You created a movement. Now, as you seek justice, New York will stand with you,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman.
“Today is a momentous day for survivors of sexual assault, and all those who fought on their behalf. Our laws now reflect the reality that child abuse survivors may not begin to grapple with that trauma – much less report it to authorities – until years later. But the passage of time makes abusers no less responsible for their actions and the pain their victims endured. I thank Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, Senator Brad Hoylman, and Governor Cuomo for enacting such important legislation. But most of all, I thank Safe Horizon and all of the relentless advocates who worked tirelessly to give voices to survivors,” said Manhattan DA Cy Vance.
“The Child Victims Act opens a door for survivors and ushers in an opportunity for healing. Today we enter a time when survivors can no longer be treated differently than other crime victims and made to stare at a courtroom door, that until now could be opened by anyone but them,” said survivor Brian Toale.
“NY is poised to become a state that prioritizes protecting children above protecting those who abuse them. Passage of this bill will be a historic moment for survivors and for New York’s children,” said survivor Melanie Blow.
“Erie County District Attorney John Flynn:
“I applaud the New York State Legislature for passing the Child Victims Act. I also want to thank Governor Cuomo for his commitment to ensuring justice for the victims of these crimes,” said Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn. “Since last January, I have been advocating for the passage of this bill to extend the statute of limitations. Often times, child victims do not come forward about what they endured at the hands of their abusers until much later in life. The passage of this law will extend the statute of limitations for an additional five years, which will provide my office and district attorneys across New York State more time to prosecute these crimes moving forward.”
Assemblyman Patrick Burke:
“Childhood sexual abuse is a heinous crime that leaves its victims traumatized and, in many cases, unable to speak about the experience for some time,” Burke said. “As a practicing Catholic, the scandals that rocked Western New York churches were heartbreaking and hit close to home. We can’t lessen or undo the sickening crimes that have been committed, but we can give more victims a chance to seek justice in a court of law.
Burke co-sponsored the legislation, which amends the criminal procedure law to extend the statute of limitations and allow criminal cases to begin until the victim turns 28 years old for felonies or 23 for misdemeanors. Additionally, the bill would push back the statute of limitations to permit civil actions until the victim is 55 years old, as well as create a one-year window during which adult survivors can revive cases that, under current law, are barred due to an expired statute of limitations. These revived cases would also be given a trial preference to move them through the court more quickly.
The legislation also treats public and private entities equally. Further, the bill requires judges to undergo additional training for cases involving the sexual abuse of minors.
Burke has been a staunch advocate for the Child Victims Act. As an Erie County legislator, he was the first elected official in Western New York to call on Bishop Richard J. Malone to resign, citing accounts and accusations of sexual abuse and a lack of transparency in the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo. This past summer, Burke led conversations with those working to investigate the scandal and organized a petition supporting the Child Victims Act.
“As a father, protecting the kids in our community is deeply personal,” Burke said. “The silence of the Buffalo Diocese as they protected predators is the ultimate betrayal of our families. While it won’t give them back their childhoods, it’s time to break the silence and give victims a chance to share their stories and see justice served.”