NY Daily News
By Ariel Zwang
January 28, 2020
A year ago, survivors of childhood sexual abuse watched and wept as Albany lawmakers voted to pass the Child Victims Act. After more than 10 years of well-funded opposition — and unwavering support from organizations that support survivors — lawmakers passed the act with near-unanimous support.
It’s time for Albany to support survivors again by extending the lookback window for civil lawsuits. State Sen. Brad Hoylman and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, two strong advocates who authored the Child Victims Act on behalf of survivors, have proposed bills that would do just that.
Organizations like Safe Horizon, the nation’s largest victims service agency, were joyous when the Child Victims Act passed because it gives survivors more pathways to justice.
In addition to extending the statute of limitations for both criminal charges and civil suits, the law opened up a one-year window during which any survivor, no matter their age or how long ago the abuse happened, can file a civil suit against their abuser. It’s this window that is allowing Jeffrey Epstein’s victims to sue his estate and for other victims to sue institutions like the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts.
This window means that many survivors who were previously barred from seeking justice in the courts now have the chance to do so. We need to keep the window open as long as possible.
We know that survivors are interested. When the window opened, Safe Horizon launched a public education campaign and a website designed to answer common questions. The website has received more than 20,000 visits, and the public service campaign has been viewed more than 300,000 times. More than 1,400 survivors have filed civil cases under the window.
Sadly, we fear many survivors will run out of time to take advantage of the window. That’s why it must be extended.
Other states, like New Jersey, North Carolina, and California have opened longer windows with great success for survivors. New York should do the same.
We heard time and again that the courts would be clogged with frivolous claims based on faded memories and misplaced evidence; the real-life experience says otherwise.
And survivors tell us, again and again, that they want more time. Filing a court case is emotionally difficult. Some survivors need months or even years to gather the right support network and steel themselves for the hurt the process could cause them.
Other survivors, especially survivors of family abuse cases, might struggle to get a lawyer because their abusers have fewer assets than institutions or wealthy estates.
Extending the window will give survivors the time they need to make the choice that is best for them. We hope Albany will extend it without delay.