Since going into effect in 2019, New York’s Child Victims Act has given thousands of childhood sexual abuse survivors the ability to bring their abusers to justice. The law allows sexual abuse survivors, regardless of their present age or when they were sexually abused, whose claims were previously time-barred a new window of opportunity to file a lawsuit.
However, the window of opportunity for filing a lawsuit that was previously time-barred is limited. Originally, survivors only had until August 14, 2020, to file a claim. But the COVID-19 pandemic made it challenging for many survivors to meet that deadline. In May, Governor Cuomo issued an executive order extending the deadline until January, and the New York Legislature followed this up by passing a new law (S7082/A9036) that extends the period of time suits can be filed until August 14, 2021.
Upon signing the new deadline into law, Governor Cuomo issued the following statement: “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. 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.”
Senator Brad Hoylman, who championed the new 1-year extension of the look back window, noted that more than 3,000 brave survivors have already taken advantage of the Child Victims Act. Allowing the COVID crisis to limit the ability of survivors to come forward would have been a mistake. The new August 14, 2021 deadline is going to help a lot of people.
A number of the survivors that have already benefited from the Child Victims Act are our clients.
Last year New York attorneys Kevin Mulhearn and Michael Dowd brought a lawsuit on behalf of 12 former students of Fanwood, New York’s famed school for the deaf, who allege they were repeatedly abused by a member of the school’s staff. Paul Mones will be assisting Mulhearn and Dowd in this effort. The women “claim that they were sexually abused by the dormitory housemaster, a man long since dead, who molested multiple girls on a daily basis, leaving them to struggle with the attendant agonies for decades.”
The same team also filed a lawsuit against Yeshiva University on behalf of 38 men who report being sexually abused when they were students at Yeshiva University High School. These survivors had been previously barred from filing a lawsuit because the statute of limitations had run, but the Child Victims Act gave them a second chance.
Thanks to the extended deadline for filing cases, more survivors of childhood sexual abuse seek justice. The extended deadline only runs until August 14, 2021, and it is unlikely it will be extended again, so therefore victims need to act as soon as possible.