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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 statutes 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 creates a one-year “window,” beginning August 14, 2019, when ANY adult survivor of child sexual abuse can file a civil lawsuit against their abuser and/or a negligent institution, no matter how long ago the abuse took place.

Please note that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation on August 3, 2020 that will extend the current “window” until 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?
You can still file civil charges under the one-year window that began on August 14, 2019 and extends to August 13, 2021.

What if I am older than 55?
You can still file civil charges under the one-year window that began on August 14, 2019 and extends to August 13, 2021.

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 closes 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 does the lookback window do?
The lookback window allows any survivor who couldn’t sue under the previous statute of limitations to file a civil case.

This includes survivors who have never filed a case or claim and those whose cases were dismissed because of the previous statute of limitations. Survivors of ANY age can file a civil case during this one-year window.

When can I file a suit under the one-year window?
Suits can be filed between August 14, 2019, and August 13, 2021. The suits don’t need to be finished before August 2021, just filed.

New York State Child Victims Act One-Year Window FAQ

What is the one-year window?
Starting August 14, 2019, ANY adult survivor of child sexual abuse who is 23 or older can bring a civil case against their abuser.

That includes survivors who never before brought a case and survivors who filed cases but couldn’t move forward because the statute of limitations had expired.

The window lasts through August 13, 2021. Suits must be FILED during that window, but they don’t need to be resolved during that window.

Does the one-year window apply to criminal cases?
No, the one-year window only applies to civil cases. 

What if I’m between the ages of 18 and 22?
If you are a survivor between the ages of 18 and 22, the one-year window does not apply to you. You have more than one year to decide on filing a lawsuit.

You can file civil charges up until age 55, and you have until age 28 to file felony charges and age 25 to file misdemeanor charges

What if I’m older than 23?
Any survivor older than 23 can file a civil case under the one-year window that starts August 14, 2019.

Even if I’m older than 55?
Any survivor over the age of 23 can file a civil case during the one-year window.

If you are interested in pursuing legal action and would like advice on how to pick a lawyer or attorney, click here.

If you are unsure if you would like to pursue legal action, read the blog post below.

What To Consider When Deciding to Take Legal Action

The Child Victims Act Provides a One-Year Window for Survivors But Is Legal Action Your Only Option?
Sherri Papamihalis, Clinical Director at our Counseling Center explains. →

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