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Advocates for Child Abuse Victims Work to Reform Statute of Limitations

Read more about our advocacy work for helping adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse gain justice.

By Michael Polenberg
May 19, 2017

New York State has some of the nation’s most prohibitive statute of limitation laws when it comes to supporting adult survivors of child sexual abuse. Most survivors only have until the age of 23 to bring court proceedings against those responsible for the abuse.

For many years, Safe Horizon has joined with a coalition of survivors, victim service providers, advocacy organizations, and national experts to advocate for legislation that would expand the ability for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to seek relief in the courts. This legislation is known as the Child Victims Act. In 2017, Safe Horizon and the other coalition members have been meeting with key members of the Governor’s administration and New York State Legislature to move this legislation forward. There are three specific points the coalition is advocating for to be part of the Child Victims Act:

  • Eliminate the criminal and civil statute of limitations going forward so that as people turn 23, these adults will be able to seek relief.
  • Create a one-year retrospective “window” to allow victims over the age of 23 to be able to initiate a civil lawsuit.
  • Eliminate the 90-day notice of claim for litigation against public institutions, which has been as a barrier for victims of abuse and their families.

The long-overdue legislation would reform New York’s overly rigid statute of limitation laws for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and allow more time to bring criminal charges and file civil litigation against those responsible.

While there is still work to be done to advance legislation with all three points the coalition is advocating for, I remain confident meaningful reform will happen.

New York State arbitrarily says once most survivors of sexual abuse turn 23 they lose the right to have their day in court. We vigorously oppose this arbitrary time limit. Abusers should not be able to run out the clock on being held accountable. The paths to justice for survivors must be broadened immediately.

  • Michael Polenberg

    Michael Polenberg is vice president of government affairs at Safe Horizon. He responsible for directing the agency's legislative and budget advocacy on both the state and local levels. Michael draws on his twenty years of advocacy work in New York to ensure that our laws explicitly help victims of crime find safety and begin to heal. He also fights for millions of dollars in public funding to sustain programs helping victims of child abuse, domestic violence, human trafficking, and sexual assault.