By Kate Lisa
The New York state Assembly is expected to pass the Adult Survivors Act to allow survivors of sexual assault to have their day in court following three years of outcry.
The Adult Survivors Act, sponsored by Manhattan Democrats Sen. Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, would create a one-year lookback window for survivors of sexual assault to file a civil suit against an individual or institution for their past abuse that occurred after age 18. The bill has highlighted such abuse rampant within the modeling or athletics industry or medical field.
Mike Whyland, spokesperson for Democrats in the Assembly majority conference, announced Thursday enough members in the lower house to pass the legislation in the lower house, as first reported by NY1.
The state Senate unanimously passed the Adult Survivors Act for the second year in a row on April 26. It has remained in the Assembly Judiciary Committee since February.
Gov. Kathy Hochul reiterated her support for the bill Thursday, and said she would sign the Adult Survivors Act into law once passed by the Legislature.
Advocates for the bill have stressed how fear of retaliation, shame, religious and cultural norms often prevent survivors of sexual assault from coming forward about their case or seeking justice.
The Adult Survivors Act is modeled after Hoylman and Rosenthal’s Child Victims Act, which opened a lookback window for victims of childhood sexual assault to file a civil suit against their abuser.
Safe Horizon CEO Liz Roberts said the Assembly expecting to pass the Adult Survivors Act is “an absolute earthquake for survivors’ rights in New York.”
“Courageous survivors of sexual abuse told their stories, relived their trauma, took time away from their lives and loved ones in the endless hope that they could make the world a better place, and hope prevailed,” she said Thursday. “That is power. That is strength. And this victory is echoing across the nation: what happened matters.”
Senators unanimously voted to pass the Adult Survivors Act last session, but it died in the Assembly.
Assemblymembers met the bill with measured caution last year on the heels of sexual harassment allegations against former Gov. Andrew Cuomo that ultimately led to his resignation last August. Some expressed concern the bill could pave the way for increased legal trouble for lawmakers and public officials.
The state Public Affairs Committee of the Junior Leagues praised the Assembly for its plan to bring the Adult Survivors Act to the floor for a vote before session ends June 2.
“After 3 years and countless hours of phone calls, emails, coalition meetings, legislative appointments, and two unanimous votes in the Senate, we will have a pathway to justice for adult survivors of sexual assault,” according to a statement from the committee. “…The trauma that survivors experience is enduring and destructive to them, to their friends, family, and loved ones, our institutions and our very society. The battle to end sexual assault is far from over, but we hope that the Adult Survivors Act will bring a measure of peace and justice to survivors.”