“Coming forward as a survivor of child sexual abuse takes courage, focus and lots of time,” said State Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat who had sponsored the Child Victims Act. “As the unemployment rate spikes above 14%, it’s unreasonable to expect survivors of child sexual abuse to do the emotional and legal work necessary to file (Child Victims Act) lawsuits while simultaneously fighting to pay rent and put food on the table.”
The window, which began in August 2019, allows a year-long period for lawsuits to be filed in cases of alleged child sex abuse where the statute of limitations had already expired.
On May 4 the Diocese of Buffalo asked a federal court to halt all outstanding clergy sex abuse litigation against it as it navigates bankruptcy proceedings. The diocese, which filed for bankruptcy in February, has been named in more than 250 sex abuse lawsuits under the legal window.
In addition to providing a legal window, The Child Victims Act also adjusted the statute of limitations for pursuing criminal charges and civil suits against sexual abusers or institutions. Previously, a survivor of child sexual abuse had until the age of 23 to file charges or a civil claim. Now, with the passage of the law, survivors have up until the age of 28 to file criminal charges, and age 55 to file a lawsuit.
When the legislation was passed, the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America, and the state's public schools all said they were preparing for the possibility of a large number of alleged abuse victims to file lawsuits.
The Catholic Church had voiced some opposition to earlier proposed versions of the Child Victims Act, on the grounds they did not provide the same protections for child abuse victims in public institutions, including schools, as it did for private institutions. The final version of the law eliminated these differences.