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New York Child Victims Act Extended By One Year

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law on Monday which will extend the Child Victims Act by a year. Child sex abuse survivors, including survivors of abuse at the hands of Boy Scouts of America or Catholic clergy, will now have until August 14, 2021 to file claims in New York. The signing allows survivors of all ages to file claims against their alleged abusers which would have previously been barred by time.

The filing window was going to expire this month, but the COVID-19 pandemic shut down courts and introduced economic hardship, prompting Cuomo to extend the window through mid-January 2012 earlier this year via executive order.

Victims attorneys had feared that even though Cuomo’s executive order had extended the window through January, the order could face invalidating legal challenges without legislative action.

The New York State Legislature decided to grant child sex abuse survivors more time to file lawsuits by extending it until August 2021 since the civil courts were closed for months during the pandemic.

Cuomo signed the bill on Monday after the legislature passed it with a veto-proof vote. Over 3,100 cases have been filed under the act according to data compiled by New York’s state court system.

“We cannot let this pandemic rob survivors of their day in court,” Cuomo said Monday. “This extension will help ensure that abusers are held accountable.”

Lawmakers and advocates had argued even before the pandemic that the window should be extended, arguing that many sexual abuse victims aren’t aware of the law or can’t find lawyers willing to take on cases against people without ties to wealthy groups. It has been noted that other states with similar measures have multi-year lookback windows, including New Jersey and Hawaii.

Cuomo had previously said that lawmakers “knew what we were doing” when they set the initial one-year window, but the COVID-19 pandemic eventually changed the landscape drastically by shutting down almost all aspects of daily life.

“The Child Victims Act brought a long-needed pathway to justice for people who were abused, and helps right wrongs that went unacknowledged and unpunished for far too long, and we cannot let this pandemic limit the ability for survivors to have their day in court,” Cuomo said. “As New York continues to reopen and recover from a public health crisis, extending the look back window is the right thing to do and will help ensure that abusers and those who enabled them are held accountable.”

AB 218 gave childhood sexual assault victims additional time for filing lawsuits in California by extending the state’s statute of limitations. Victims in California now have until age 40 or five years after their abuse was discovered to file a lawsuit. The previous statute gave victims until age 26 or three years after discovery of abuse.

AB 218 also opened a lookback window of three years for previously invalid claims. The start of this window was January 1, 2020. Survivors of childhood sexual assault have three years from that date to file a lawsuit against their abusers and anyone who covered for their abusers. Survivors can file lawsuits during this window no matter their age or the date of the assault.


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