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Safe Horizon, Survivors and Lawmakers Rally for Adult Survivors Act Before Session Ends

Safe Horizon, Survivors and Lawmakers Rally for Adult Survivors Act Before Session Ends

 

On Thursday, May 20, 2021, Safe Horizon, survivors and lawmakers rallied for the Adult Survivors Act (ASA) before the legislative session ends. Legislators have only 10 days to pass the bill. Adult survivors of child sexual abuse joined to urge legislators to open the lookback window to time-barred survivors who were over the age of 18 at the time of their abuse.

Safe Horizon launched a PSA earlier this month, available to watch here.

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill. The pressure is now on both houses to move the ASA forward and help create paths to justice for all survivors.

“Survivors of sexual violence deserve every opportunity to seek healing and justice through our courts. This is why the New York State legislature must pass the Adult Survivors Act as soon as possible. This bill will create expanded paths to justice in civil court for individuals who were sexually assaulted as adults and who are outside of the statute of limitations. Over the last two years, the legislature has recognized the need to better align our statutes with the experiences of sexual assault victims, and the Adult Survivors Act is the next step in this process of reform. We urge lawmakers to pass this important bill and help survivors across the state seek justice in our courts,” said Liz Roberts, CEO, Safe Horizon.

“Our legal system has failed the survivors of sexual assault for too long – they demand and deserve justice. We can do more for those who were denied justice, and that means passing the Adult Survivors Act and ensuring that survivors have the tools they need to hold their abusers accountable and finally gain closure. I am proud to once again fight alongside a survivor-led coalition and my colleague Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, and with justice on our side I know that we can succeed,” said Senator Brad Hoylman.

“The Adult Survivors Act (ASA) is a vitally needed justice reform that will provide survivors of sexual assault and rape with access to the courts and an opportunity for justice. Far too many survivors of sexual assault cannot access justice because of a system that has favored abusers with unnecessarily short statutes of limitations and the stigma that still surrounds sexual assault. It is crucial that we prioritize the ASA for passage in the New York State Assembly and Senate this year,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan), Chair of the Committee on Social Service and prime sponsor of the ASA in the New York State Assembly.

“Sexual assault is a crime with a lifelong, profound impact on survivors. This impact does not go away. Many survivors suffer long-term, chronic physical and psychological trauma. The damage to survivors’ lives is not finite, and neither should the perpetrator’s responsibility. That is why the Joyful Heart Foundation stands with our partners in support of the Adult Survivors Act. As we push to reform statutes of limitations across the country, this legislation acknowledges that even if the criminal justice system fails a survivor, they will still have the right to sue their accuser. Healing may look different for every survivor, and civil justice is a pathway to healing that cannot be overlooked,” said Ilse Knecht, Policy & Advocacy Director for the Joyful Heart Foundation.

Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, executive director of Sanctuary for Families said, “Sexual violence is a pervasive part of intimate partner violence and is profoundly traumatic for survivors. It can take years, and sometimes decades, for survivors to get to a place where they can and want to speak out about their experiences. The Adult Survivors Act would be a meaningful addition to an important body of legislation that New York State has passed in recent years to strengthen the rights and recourses of survivors of sexual assault. We urge the legislature to continue to build on its successes by passing this bill.”

Marissa Hoechstetter said, “In order to stop serial sexual abuse, there must be a public reckoning for institutions that fraudulently conceal the abuse of sexual predators. Robert Hadden was able to assault me and at least 200 other people over more than two decades because his employer was actively covering it up. Had Columbia University acted in accordance with that law, most of us would never have even seen him as our doctor. It takes years to realize the full reach of someone’s crimes; women continue to report to Hadden to law enforcement to this day. Knowing of these systemic failures to protect women, mothers, girls, and pregnant patients during some of the most intimate and vulnerable periods of our lives, is the legislature really going to say that the path to justice is closed because some of us were over 18 when the abuse occurred? By passing the Adult Survivors Act this session, New York has the opportunity to unequivocally say that no matter their age, each victim’s voice deserves to be heard.”

“With the passage of the Child Victims Act the legislature acknowledged the realities of being a survivor of sexual abuse. They acknowledged that by the very nature of the crime itself disclosure is often delayed, survivors are often intimidated into silence, and that most incidences of sexual abuse and assault aren’t disclosed until decades later. It’s time for the legislature to acknowledge that those same realities hold true for adult survivors of sexual assault by passing the Adult Survivors Act, allowing survivors to seek justice against their abusers after decades of being silenced by New York State law,” said Asher Lovy, survivor, Director of ZA’AKAH.

“As one of dozens of survivors of sexual assault by former OB/GYN Robert Hadden, I know how it feels to hold a terrible truth and decide to speak it out loud. It takes time. If and when someone chooses to come forward, their pathway to justice should not be time barred or limited to results from a fraught criminal justice system. Survivors deserve an opportunity to be heard in their own time. With the Adult Survivors Act, New York has the opportunity to provide ALL survivors access to justice,” said Evelyn Yang.

Senator Anna M. Kaplan said, “For too long, New York’s outdated laws made it difficult for survivors of abuse to seek justice, causing too many to suffer in silence to avoid being re-victimized by an unforgiving legal process. The Adult Survivors Act recognizes that we have failed too many survivors, and finally gives them an opportunity to speak out, have their day in court, and hopefully find an opportunity for healing. I’m extremely proud to support the Adult Survivors Act, and I urge my colleagues to join me in pushing for its passage in the legislature.”

Senator Jim Gaughran said, “Survivors of sexual assault must be afforded the opportunity to seek justice and closure. I am a proud supporter of the Adult Survivors Act, and we must pass this and my legislation to establish a fund to help finance the burdensome legal costs associated with these claims.”

“All survivors of sexual assault deserve the chance to heal and have their voices heard,” said Senator Andrew Gounardes. “They should have our support whenever they decide to pursue justice, and those who have survived sexual assault should be able to have a shot at rectifying what happened to them. That’s why I’m proud to support the Adult Survivors Act, which would create a one-year legal lookback window so that people who were 18 or older when they were abused could file civil lawsuits against their abusers. This legislation is necessary to ensure that we provide an avenue of recourse for victims of sexual assault and give survivors their day in court.”

“Unnecessary restrictions have hampered the opportunity for survivors to seek justice for the trauma they endured. I, unfortunately, know all too well that the pathway to healing is not linear. Survivors often take days, months, or even decades before we are finally able to confront our abusers. The Adult Survivors Act would create a special one-year lookback window to allow adult survivors of abuse the ability to file a lawsuit against those who have harmed them so that they can finally obtain the justice they deserve. I want to thank Senator Hoylman and Assemblywoman Rosenthal for carrying this bill forward, and I urge my colleagues to ensure this bill gets passed in this legislative session,” said Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz.

“When someone is sexually assaulted, the trauma from the ordeal makes it difficult for the person to talk and come forward. This fear is compounded by the intersections of their identities and the ways other systems ongoingly erase and harm them. Having a statute of limitations on harm that leaves long-lasting damage, is wrong and unjust.” Assemblymember Gonzalez-Rojas said. “People who are survivors need support from the court system, not more punishment and neglect.”

“The criminal justice system is how society punishes — but it’s the civil justice system that puts survivors in the driver’s seat; it’s how survivors can hold their abusers accountable. Our civil courts should be here for all of us. Sexual Assault is not like other harms. Many survivors need years to process their abuse and reach a place where they are able to address what happened to them. By that time, survivors often find they are already outside of the statute of limitations. While we’ve had some excellent expansions in our statutes of limitations, those improvements are not retroactive. And they exclude most adults who’ve been living with the trauma from their assault for years. This loophole was fixed in New Jersey and now it’s time for New York to step up. It’s now time for the Senate to show that they care about victims of sexual assault and abuse by passing the ASA. Survivors deserve fairness, and fairness is the ASA,” said Carrie Goldberg, founder of C.A. Goldberg, PLLC victims’ rights law firm.

“As the first known victim or Dr. Larry Nassar, I am painfully aware of the fact that powerful institutions often protect abusers for decades. In New York, most sexual assault victims have only three years to report their abuse but for many survivors, it takes 20 years or more to come to terms with their abuse and take action against the perpetrators. The Adult Survivors Act will open a window to justice for many survivors and enable them to seek the accountability and healing they deserve,” Sarah Klein, Attorney and Victim’s Advocate.

“In 1980 I was one of several persons who were sexually abused by a coach. Some of his victims were under eighteen years old, and some, like me, had just turned eighteen. Because of the Child Survivors Act, the victims under eighteen had a recent opportunity to pursue the justice and closure they deserve. Many, like myself, have had no such luck. Just three months put me out of reach for seeking any recourse. There are many people like me who have had to suffer silently the consequences of being violated, both physically and psychologically. ASA would give a voice that many of us have been seeking for so long. After carrying around this burden of shame for forty years, I am ready for my voice to be heard,” said Robert Bender.

“Sexual harassment and assault are pervasive problems in New York’s modeling industry,” said Sara Ziff, the founder and executive director of the Model Alliance. “Many survivors are time-barred from seeking justice and, in some cases, their abusers have yet to face consequences for their actions. No matter how long ago the abuse happened, all survivors deserve a chance at justice. That’s why we support the Adult Survivors Act.”

“So many of my clients over the years have taken decades to grapple with the impact that sexual violence has had on their lives. If the cases of Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein have taught us nothing else, it is that these powerful predators were able to “normalize” abuse that takes years to unpack. This law allows the survivors of abuse finally to seek justice in a way that fits with that lesson,” said Mariann Wang of Cuti Hecker Wang LLP.

“All survivors deserve justice regardless of when or where they were victimized. We wholeheartedly support this effort and are confident that this bill will not only provide support and healing to survivors but also better inform communities about abusers and enablers in their midst. The Adult Survivors Act is an important step forward and one that we urge New York legislators to advance today,” said Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director

“As an adult survivor of sexual abuse, the passing of this bill is vital. I do not say that lightly. The trauma, pain, and mental anguish that accompanied my sexual assault nearly took my life. By passing this bill, New York will once again set a precedent. It acknowledges that victims need time to process their trauma. It also puts sexual predators on notice. Their time is up and New York will hold them accountable for their actions. We are telling sexual predators.. no more. Not on our watch,” said a snap member.

About the Adult Survivors Act

The ASA – (A.648 Rosenthal/S.66 Hoylman) – is the next important step that the New York State legislature must take to reform the State’s long-outdated statute of limitations for survivors of sexual violence. Modeled on the Child Victims Act, the ASA would provide a one-year lookback window to survivors who were abused when they were 18 years old or over. If passed, adult survivors would have one year in which to file a civil claim — no matter how long ago the abuse happened — even if the statute of limitations has expired.

Learn more about the ASA here.

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