Survivors of sexual abuse received another legal endorsement when a New York state supreme court justice ruled in mid-May that the state’s Child Victims Act was constitutional. Justice Steven M. Jaeger upheld the law, which went into effect in early 2019 and temporarily eliminates the statute of limitations for lawsuits stemming from child sexual abuse.
Advocates applauded the decision, which occurred in Nassau County and was the result of a legal challenge made by the Diocese of Rockville Centre on Long Island. The diocese in November sought to dismiss the more than 40 Child Victims Act cases it. Jaeger wrote that the law was a “reasonable response to remedy the injustice of past child sexual abuse.” Although the decision occurred in Nassau County, it will have statewide implications
Act upheld, legal challenges continue
Signed into law in February 2019 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Child Victims Act extends the statute of limitations in sexual abuse cases. Sexual abuse survivors now have until the age of 55 to pursue civil action against their abusers. The previous age limit was 23 in civil cases. The act also addresses criminal cases as victims can pursue prosecution against predators until the age of 28.
Last August, the act offered a one-year window for survivors of any age allowing them to come forward to seek prosecution in matters that surpassed the statute of limitations. Recently, Gov. Cuomo announced that window was extended to Jan. 14, 2021.
Advocates of sexual abuse survivors cited the ruling as a victory for anyone fighting for retribution related to decades-old criminal cases. Legal challenges such as those made by the Diocese of Rockville Centre and continuous arguments so far have prevented many victims from coming forward and telling their stories.