Addressing sexual assault in a public court is a personal, traumatic and sometimes humiliating experience for victims. Many choose to not come forth and face their abusers in court; those that do have to muster the courage to do so. Imagine that victim being a child; how likely are they to get their day in court?
It is reported that 85% of child sexual assault victims do not report their abuse. Because of gaslighting and long-term manipulation, many child victims do not bring their cases to court until they are of adult age. However, that age in the state of New York has its limits.
As a seemingly progressive blue state, it should be surprising that New York has one of the strictest statute of limitations for child sexual abuse claims in the country. The Child Victims Act, if passed, will extend the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse crimes to the age of 28 in criminal cases and the age of 50 in civil cases, with a one year-window to bring civil claims for victims below that age limit.
As stated in the legislation itself, “Unfortunately for survivors of child sexual abuse, New York State does not currently provide much opportunity for legal recourse. According to constitutional scholar and Cardozo Law School Professor Marci Hamilton, New York is one of the worst states in the nation for child sexual abuse statutes of limitation, along with Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, and Michigan.”
The current law in place for child sexual abuse victims allows them to report the crime to law enforcement officials and have the crime prosecuted until the age of 23. After that age, the abuser has a complete defense and is able to avoid prosecution entirely.
The History Behind The Act
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, approximately 1.8 million children have been victims of sexual assault. According to Darkness To Light, an organization seeking to end child sexual abuse, more than 90% of the perpetrators in these cases are adults the child knows, loves and trusts.
Because of the close proximity of the abusers and the difficulty in reporting sexual abuse, survivors typically do not speak out until adulthood. Over the past eight years, many states have begun to recognize this delayed reporting reality by extending or eliminating statutes of limitations. Unfortunately, New York has come late to the party, although over 20 co-sponsors of the bill began the process of legislative change in 2012.
The bill gained tremendous support in Albany by passing the State Assembly in 2017, a vote of 139 to 7. The Governor has already came out in support for the bill stating, “The revelations about the extent of the problem are only getting worse and I think it should be passed.” However, Governor Cuomo’s support met with friction from Republicans.
Then Senate Majority Leader Flanagan single-handedly stopped the bill from coming to the Senate floor to be voted upon. His interests are aligned with the Catholic Church, Orthodox Jewish groups and the Boy Scouts of America, who claim that the lawsuits brought forth during the one-year window will result in the bankruptcy of their institutions.
What Happens Next?
Now that the Democrats control both houses of the New York legislature, the light at the end of the tunnel can be seen. Passage of the Child Victims Act appears imminent. Now is the time to focus on the survivors. These traumatized children and adults deserve to be heard. They need to be represented in a way that values their integrity and their humanity.
The lawyers at Herman Law have years of experience working with children and adults who have suffered through childhood sexual assault. Herman Law understands the ins and outs of The Child Victim Act and will work with you now and after its passing to get you or a loved one the justice you deserve. Start the healing process today by giving us a call at (800) 686-9921 or visit our website at hermanlaw.com.