Dozens of Survivors and advocates sign letter urging Governor to extend the deadline for filing
Amid the COVID-19 pandmeic, a coalition of survivors and advocates from across New York State called on Governor Cuomo to include an extension of the Child Victims Act (CVA) lookback window in this year's budget. The lookback window allows survivors of child sexual abuse of any age one year to file a civil case against their abuser and any liable institutions. This extension is especially important during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis due to the halt on non-essential filings in state courts preventing survivors from using the existing one year window.
"We write in strong support of extending the Child Victims Act lookback window another year, allowing more time-barred survivors of sexual violence the chance to pursue justice in civil court. This is more important than ever due to the COVID-19 crisis which has closed state courts and put a halt to new filings, effectively curtailing the 1 year look-back window to 7 months. Given the uncertainty of the current situation, there's no telling when the courts may open again or what state survivors may be in to actually pursue their rights under the law," the survivors write in the letter.
The full letter is attached and below.
The Child Victims Act, passed January 2019, extends the statute of limitations from 23 years to 25 for misdemeanors, 28 for felonies and 55 for civil cases. Critically, the Child Victims Act created a one year window to allow survivors who were already 23 years of age or older when the bill was signed, a chance to find justice in the courts. Survivors can file a civil case against their abusers and any institutions that may have enabled the abuse, no matter how old they are or how long ago the abuse happened. The window opened August 14th, 2019 closes on August 13th, 2020. Since the opening of the window over 1,800 cases have been filed.
To: Governor Cuomo,
We write in strong support of extending the Child Victims Act lookback window another year, allowing more time-barred survivors of sexual violence the chance to pursue justice in civil court. This is more important than ever due to the COVID-19 crisis which has closed state courts and put a halt to new filings, effectively curtailing the 1 year look-back window to 7 months. Given the uncertainty of the current situation, there's no telling when the courts may open again or what state survivors may be in to actually pursue their rights under the law. Just as necessary emergency measures have demolished whole industries, survivors will suffer economically along with the rest of New York State, hampering our ability to hire lawyers and pursue justice.
We urge you to include the CVA extension (S.7082/A.9036) in the upcoming Budget.
The Child Victims Act is incredibly important legislation that gave adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse time to speak out and hold their abusers or liable institutions accountable in civil court. After a 13 year battle, the law passed included a lookback window allowing survivors one year to file a civil case against the individual or institution no matter how long ago the abuse happened.
While the window in New York is limited to one year, New Jersey and North Carolina have two year windows and California has a three year window. Vermont and Guam have eliminated the civil statute of limitations and Hawaii is on the verge of extending its civil statute of limitations a second time. Since New York's window opened in August 2019, nearly 1,800 cases have been filed. Keeping the window open another year will give more survivors time to access to justice. More people will come forward, additional abusers will be held responsible and more survivors will find closure.
Advocates and survivors worked together for over a decade to pass the Child Victims Act. It has now been law for a little over a year, and many survivors across the state -- adults who are among the one in four girls and one in six boys who will be abused before the age of 18 in New York -- still do not know about their new rights under the new law.
Even survivors who are aware of their rights may need more time to grapple with the emotional and psychological costs of pursuing a civil case. The science of trauma is clear: it can take decades to deal with the shame and guilt associated with childhood sexual abuse. The decision to pursue a claim can be extremely complex. and finding adequate legal representation can be time consuming and difficult. COVID-19 further compounds that delay, making it impossible for new cases to be filed since the courts are closed. Survivors have had just seven months to make this decision and many people who wanted to file cases under the existing window now may not be able to. It is imperative that time-barred survivors are able to access the lookback window, and that we extend it for those who need more time.
By signing the Child Victims Act into law you have shown that you believe in the rights of survivors, including the extension in your budget would be the next step in the vitally important work you have already started.