Wednesday, August 14, 2019, was a landmark date in the civil justice system of New York State. It marked the first day of a one-year lookback period under the Child Victims Act, passed last February. The Act gives adult victims of childhood abuse a limited window of time to bring time-barred claims against abusers and institutions. In essence, it opens the courts to those who would otherwise have no legal recourse.
Opening the gates to justice
As anticipated, the court system was flooded with filings the first day — more than 400 across the state. Also as predicted, many involve the Catholic Church. But that isn’t the only organization impacted.
Several claims against the Boy Scouts of America allege widespread abuse and coverups. So, too, do two high-profile lawsuits against the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Others involve institutions such as the former Convalescent Hospital for Children, multiple public school districts and Rockefeller University. And at least one new lawsuit has surfaced against the estate of Jeffrey Epstein (as well as his associate Ghislaine Maxwell and several former employees).
Shedding light on a horrific reality
The diversity of claims, circumstances and defendants illustrates the horrific and widespread reality of child sexual abuse. The Child Victims Act empowers survivors by giving them greater access to courts. As more of these claims come to light, organizations and institutions will no longer be able to escape accountability by covering up the abuse or silencing victims. The opportunity to seek justice is a major victory for survivors of all stripes.