Long-Awaited Reform To Provide Justice and Accountability
(Albany, NY) – New York is on the verge of making child protection history as the state Legislature is expected to pass the proposed Child Victims Act (CVA) today.
“It appears that the lawmakers in New York are finally coming together to choose the welfare of survivors and the public over the interests of powerful institutions trying to protect themselves and their secrets,” said Jeff Anderson, an attorney with Jeff Anderson & Associates noted for his work on behalf of child sexual abuse survivors for more than three decades. “Today could be the dawn of a new day in New York.”
The CVA would reform the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse survivors in New York to allow them to bring a civil lawsuit against abusers and institutions until they reach the age of 55. These survivors only have until age 23 to bring a lawsuit under current law. The CVA would open a one-year window for child sexual abuse victims of any age to bring lawsuits for abuse that may have occurred decades ago and are barred by the current state statute of limitations.
By most accounts, the Legislature is expected to pass the CVA and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has vowed to sign it. It is long, long overdue. New York lawmakers voted on the CVA several times over the years but the legislation failed to pass after languishing in the State Senate due to intense lobbying by the Catholic Church and other institutions.
“We applaud the legislators in New York and especially Sen. Brad Hoylman, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, who sponsored the Assembly bill,” Anderson said. “None of this is possible without the efforts and support of courageous survivors, many of whom have lived with the pain and trauma of sexual abuse for decades.”
The CVA is not perfect because there should be no statute of limitations for sexual abuse. It can take survivors decades to be able to come forward for many reasons, including trauma and shame. But it is a vast improvement. New York’s current statute of limitations for child sexual abuse survivors is among the worst in the country.
Lawsuits result in more than just compensation for survivors. Through the litigation process, abusers and institutions that protected them are forced to disclose information and secret documents showing abusers’ histories and how institutions covered for them. We have seen that similar CVA measures in Minnesota and Hawaii enabled hundreds of survivors to come forward, bring lawsuits and begin the healing process. As a result of the Minnesota Child Victims Act, thousands of pages of secret institutional documents and hundreds of names of perpetrators were made public for the first time. This forces institutions to be more accountable and transparent, and it helps keep the public safer. Lawsuits also help survivors begin to heal.
“We’ve seen that coming forward to seek justice is often the first step in the healing process for survivors,” Anderson said. “It allows survivors to begin to take back power that was stolen from them as children. We admire the courage it takes for survivors to take that first step.”