After a year-long extension due to COVID-19 restrictions, New York State’s “look back” window for survivors of child sex abuse will soon close.
In February 2019, New York lawmakers signed the Child Victims Act (CVA) into law. One main provision of the CVA is a “look back” window. This retroactive window allows childhood victims of sexual assault to file claims otherwise prohibited by New York’s statute of limitations. Since then, nearly 6,000 lawsuits have been filed. Nearly half of these lawsuits were filed against the New York Catholic dioceses.
New York’s legal revival window will close on August 14, 2021. After the window closes, survivors will be required to file a civil claim before reaching the age of 55. Otherwise, they will lose their right to seek legal justice.
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New York CVA Leads To Lawsuits Against Institutions
The CVA was heralded as a major victory for child sexual abuse survivors in New York. The CVA extends the legal deadlines for civil and criminal cases of child sexual abuse. It also waives the need to file a notice of claim for sexual offenses committed against a minor. Additionally, the CVA addresses many of the legal needs of time-barred survivors.
The majority of abuse victims do not report their abuse until adulthood. As a result, many cases fall outside the legal deadline to file a claim against an abuser. The CVA’s legal “look back” window allows survivors to file civil claims regardless of when the abuse took place. Thanks to this provision, thousands of survivors filed claims in counties across New York.
Roughly 97% of cases filed during the “look back” period allege systemic abuse by leaders of institutions. These institutions include the Boy Scouts of America, the Catholic Church, foster care systems, schools and youth centers. In contrast, less than 3% of claims were filed against individuals, including family members, neighbors and strangers.
Accused institutions tend to have more resources to pay abuse survivors.
For example, amid the nationwide clergy abuse scandal, survivors often sued the responsible diocese instead of the accused priest. Between June 2017 and June 2018, the Catholic Church spent $200 million in clergy abuse settlements.
Many States Have Adopted Similar Legal Windows
New York is one of many states that has passed recent reform laws for child sexual abuse survivors. Nationwide, 12 states have passed statute of limitations reform laws in 2021. Lawmakers in 23 states and Washington D.C. have passed legislation for revival windows similar to the one closing in New York. California, New Jersey and North Carolina all opened “look back” windows.
New York’s legal “look back” window closes on August 14, 2021. New York survivors need to act soon to seek compensation for physical, financial and emotional losses. After the window closes, survivors will have a limited amount of time to file a claim.
McKinley, E. (2021, June 12). As Child Victims Act nears end, details of abuse still elusive. KETV.
McKinley, E. (2020, September 23). Many victims fall through the cracks of New York’s Child Victims Act. Times Union.
Burke, D. (2019, June 4). The US Catholic Church spent more than $300 million on abuse-related costs in 12 months. CNN.
Child USA. (2021, June 28) 2021 SOL Tracker. Retrieved June 25, 2021.