In 2019, New York legislators passed the Child Victims Act, which made changes to the statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse and opened a temporary window for all survivors to seek civil action. The purpose of this bill was to give survivors of child sexual assault the ability to seek justice against their abusers and the institutions that enabled them.
When it went into effect, the Child Victims Act:
- Extended New York’s statute of limitations for criminal charges against sexual abusers in felony cases until their victims turn 28 (previously 23).
- Allowed victims to seek civil action against their abusers and institutions that enabled their abuse until the victim turns 55.
- Opened a one-year window to allow all victims, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred, to seek civil action against their abusers and the institutions that enabled their abuse. This window was later extended by an additional year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result of the Child Victims Act, more than 9,200 complaints of child sexual abuse have already been filed. The final number of complaints is expected to approach 10,000 by the August 14, 2021 deadline.
Cases against institutions that enabled abuse, including the Catholic Church, Boy Scouts, Mormon Church, Boys & Girls Club, schools, organized sports, summer camps, and other youth-serving institutions, have made up 97% of all cases. This resulted in several institutions, including some Catholic Diocese and the Boy Scouts of America filing for bankruptcy.
Paul Mones spoke to USA Today about the Boy Scouts decision to file for bankruptcy stating, “Throughout its entire existence, the Boy Scouts knew it had a colossal sexual abuse problem but also took comfort that it would be protected from litigation by draconian state laws such as the one in New York that prevented sexual abuse victims from suing. The passage of the CVA ripped that shield away overnight, exposing the Boy Scouts to thousands of lawsuits… At that point, the BSA’s fate was sealed – it had no choice but to file bankruptcy or face financial ruin.”
The window to file in New York is closing on August 14th; however, in California, because of AB 218, victim-survivors of child sexual abuse still have the ability to seek civil action through December 31, 2022. You can learn more about your rights under the California Child Victims Act (California AB 218) here.