A new law has extended the statute of limitations for victims of sexual abuse to sue the alleged abusers. A higher number of victims of child sexual harassment and abuse will now have a chance to file lawsuits against their abusers as soon as a critical provision of the New York State Child Victims Act gets enacted. On Wednesday August 14, 2019, New York State will open 12 months (a one-time) period that allows all victims of sex abuse to seek justice against their abusers no matter how many years ago the incident happened.
The long-awaited justice
Law firms and attorneys across the state and country have made it clear that they intend to file many cases against public entities, religious institutions, scout organizations, and even individuals played any role in acts of sexual abuse or committed the acts. According to the spokesman for the New York State Unified Court System, Lucian Chalfen, some of the logistics are in flux. However, he made it clear that the justice system is prepared for the expected filing of hundreds or thousands of lawsuits in the days after August 14, 2019.
As the look-back window looms, the attorneys for most alleged victims are advertising on the internet and even televisions. Hospitals, churches, schools and other institutions are now bracing for the anticipated wave of lawsuits and settlement negotiations. The state court system is also establishing the timeframes to move hundreds or thousands of expected lawsuits through the state courts. The system is also training new judges, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Advocates and other supporters who fought for the recent amendments for more than ten years strongly believe that lawsuits will offer justice to the victims of child sexual molestation. Meanwhile, critics still argue that some of the alleged abusers may have died many years ago and that means the legal and financial burden is likely to befall on schools, churches, scout organizations, and other institutions with limited documents to defend themselves.
The amendment of the sexual abuse laws also increased the highest age level to file a civil lawsuit from 23 to 55 years. Additionally, the changes offer prosecutors extra time to bring criminal charges to the attention of courts.
“It is the right thing to do,” says Polenberg
Some states such as Hawaii, Minnesota, and Arizona, have opened similar windows for victims of childhood sexual abuse, New York’s law amendments have gone a step further and allowed lawsuits against both private and public institutions. According to Michael Polenberg, if New York State can pass laws like these, it’s showing the entire country that establishing a venue for justice for the victims of sexual abuse is the right move. Polenberg is the Safe Horizon’s vice president for government affairs, an organization that works with the victims of sexual abuse.