With the Child Victims Act now signed into law, survivors of childhood sexual abuse will have an opportunity to seek justice against their abusers and the organizations that harbored them. It’s a victory that’s nonetheless bittersweet, as it means that more light will be shed on horrific instances of abuse across New York.
Previously, child victims only had until age 23 to sue perpetrators of sexual abuse. Yet for survivors of childhood sexual abuse—many of whom don’t come forward until adulthood, if at all—there is no statute of limitations on the suffering. It lasts a lifetime.
An extended deadline and one-year window
The new law extends the deadline. Victims will now have until age 55 to come forward. For those who have already suffered from abuse, and whose claims would otherwise be time-barred, the law opens a one-time, one-year window to bring those lawsuits.
Courage to come forward
Hundreds of Catholic priests across New York have already been accused of child molestation. So far, six dioceses have identified 249 priests as subjects of credible complaints, and many more will likely to come light. Two dioceses (including New York City) haven’t released any numbers. One source estimates that as many as 1,200 priests may ultimately be implicated.
Five New York dioceses have already paid out about $200 million in settlements to over a thousand victims, who gave up their right to sue in exchange. Yet many more survivors will likely come forward.
And the window isn’t limited to claims against the Catholic Church. It allows for claims against schools and organizations like the Boy Scouts.
It takes courage to come forward. The hope is that, as more and more victims make their voices heard, others will follow.