New York Daily News
By Denis Slattery
January 28, 2020
That is the message lawmakers delivered Tuesday as they marked the one year anniversary of the passage of the Child Victims Act and called for an extension of the civil “lookback” window allowing survivors to sue their abuser or any institution that helped to cover up the offense — regardless of how long ago the act occurred.
More than 1,400 lawsuits have already been filed since the window opened last summer, but legislators want to grant victims more time to take action.
“We think a one-year window is not sufficient,” said Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), a sponsor of the original legislation who is now carrying a new bill to extend the civil window.
“There are many many people still who need more time either because they’re just beginning to process the abuse that happened to them, some can’t find an attorney because their abuser was a next-door neighbor, not an institution and others are just gathering evidence and memories, but it takes a while to get everything together,” Rosenthal added.
Other states, including California and New Jersey, have instituted multi-year revival windows for civil lawsuits because it can often take decades for adult survivors of child sexual abuse to come forward, advocates noted.
“Every survivor should be able to take the time they need to make the choice that is right for them. That’s why we urge Albany to extend the lookback window under the Child Victims Act without delay,” said Ariel Zwang, the CEO of Safe Horizon, a nonprofit victims service organization.
The long-stalled Child Victims Act changed the legal landscape in New York by allowing victims of abuse to seek criminal prosecution against an abuser until the age of 28, an increase from the prior age limit of 23. In civil cases, victims can seek prosecution until they turn 55.
Lawmakers are exploring several other options to do more for victims who say they are unable to get justice under the current law.
Advocates have called on the state to enact a child victim reconciliation and compensation fund meant to help those whose abusers were not part of a major institution, like a church or school.
Survivors would be able to file a claim with the fund, which would then be investigated by a team of experts. An administrator would oversee the process and dole out money in certain circumstances.
With the window set to expire in August, lawmakers want to act swiftly to give survivors a shot at justice.
“Today’s one year anniversary of the Child Victims Act is bittersweet because the last year has clearly shown there is much more work required in New York to protect children and young people from the evils of sexual abuse,” said Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan).