We’ve all heard of the Child Victims Act, New York’s law allowing survivors of childhood sexual abuse additional time to sue their abusers and hold them financially accountable under the law. The 2019 law gave relief from the statute of limitations for a special window period so that people who suffered sex abuse years or decades ago could pursue justice.
Now, a new bill, the Adult Survivors Act, has been introduced to give a similar one-year window to survivors of adult sexual abuse. For example, over 200 women claim to have been sexually assaulted by former gynecologist Robert Hadden. Some of the victims were children at the time of the alleged abuse, and they are covered by the Child Victims Act.
Many others, however, were 18 or older when they were assaulted. It strikes many people as arbitrary to offer relief to child victims but not 18-year-olds in the same situation.
In 2016, Hadden agreed to a plea deal where he only had to surrender his medical license but served no jail time. In September, federal prosecutors charged him with two decades’ worth of abuse under the cover of providing medical examinations. He has pled not guilty and faces a trial next year.
Why give survivors more time to sue?
The main reason for these laws is that statutes of limitation that cut off access to the courts are often unfair to people who have suffered this type of abuse, especially by people in authority. This is because it takes time and therapy to come to terms with what happened.
Recognizing that fact, in 2019 New York extended the statute of limitations for rape and certain other sexual misconduct to 20 years. It had been only five years. However, the change was not made retroactive.
“The legislature has already recognized that it takes time to come forward and report trauma,” noted one adult survivor. “I believe it is only fair to now include those who were assaulted over the age of 18… We’re not asking for the state, for the Legislature to weigh in on the merit of our accusations. We’re asking for access to the courts.”
According to the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who is one sponsor of the Adult Survivors Act, over 5,200 New Yorkers have already filed suit under the Child Victims Act. The deadline for that Act is August 14.
If you suffered sexual abuse as a child or as an adult, it may be time to explore your legal options for holding your abuser accountable. If you have questions about the Child Victims Act, talk to an attorney right away, as the deadline is fast approaching.