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Information About Paths to Justice for Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

The Child Victims Act (CVA) helps survivors of childhood sexual abuse seek justice in our courts.
If this resonates with you or someone you know, please read on for useful information.

What is the Child Victims Act?
Until January 2019, New York State had one of the nation’s most restrictive statute of limitations when it came to bringing forward child sexual abuse cases in civil or criminal courts. Most survivors had only until age 23 to seek justice in the courts.

The Child Victims Act (CVA) extends the statute of limitations for adult survivors of child sexual abuse, recognizing that many adults may not disclose their experiences until they are in their 30s, 40s, 50s or even later.

What does the Child Victims Act do?
The Child Victims Act gives survivors of child sexual abuse more time to seek justice in our courts. Moving forward, under the law survivors who were under the age of 23 on February 14, 2019, will now have until:

  • Their 55th birthday to file a civil lawsuit against their abuser.
  • Their 25th birthday to file criminal misdemeanor charges against their abusers and their 28th birthday to file criminal felony charges.

The CVA also created a time-limited “window” that allowed ANY adult survivor of child sexual abuse to file a civil lawsuit against their abuser and/or a negligent institution, no matter how long ago the abuse took place. That window closed on August 13, 2021.

Safe Horizon client advocates are now available by chat to offer information, advocacy, and support to people who have been impacted by violence, crime, and abuse. To chat with an advocate during business hours, visit our SafeChat page.

Child Victims Act FAQ

What if I am already older than 25 or 28 (to pursue criminal charges) or 55 (to pursue civil charges)?

Unfortunately, the time-limited window to pursue a civil case closed on August 13, 2021. Although you may no longer be able to file a case, Safe Horizon can still provide you with emotional support and counseling.

You can find information about our Helpline here.

What you can do:

AGE What you can do
Under 18
  • Can bring criminal charges up to age 28 (felonies) and age 25 (misdemeanors);
  • Can bring civil cases up to age 55.
Between 18 and 22
  • If not yet 23 on February 14, 2019, can bring criminal charges up to age 28 (felonies) and age 25 (misdemeanors);
  • Can bring civil cases up to age 55.
23 and Older
  • If 23rd birthday fell before February 14, 2019, can take advantage of the lookback window to file a civil case. The window opened on August 14, 2019 and closed on August 13, 2021.

What is the difference between a criminal and a civil case?

In a criminal case, the state decides if and how to pursue the case. If the abuser is convicted, they may be sentenced to jail or prison.

In a civil case, the survivor, not the state, makes decisions that shape the case, including whether to sue, accept a settlement offer, or go to trial.

If the court rules in favor of the survivor, the abuser may have to pay damages. Civil litigation may hold institutions, like churches, schools, or organizations, accountable.

What did the lookback window do?

The lookback window allowed any survivor who couldn’t sue under the previous statute of limitations to file a civil case. This included survivors who had never filed a case or claim and those whose cases were dismissed because of the previous statute of limitations. Survivors of ANY age were able to file a civil case during this window.

The window closed on August 13, 2021.

Safe Horizon's Resources for Adult Survivors of Child Sex Abuse

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