Adult victims of child sexual abuse now have an additional five months to file civil lawsuits in New York State. This extension falls under protections of the New York Child Victims Act (CVA). On May 8, 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his decision to extend the CVA’s one-year “look back” window.
His decision was prompted by the effects of the ongoing pandemic on the court system. The decision is designed to compensate for the limited court services offered due to COVID-19.
In his announcement, Governor Cuomo quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., stating “Justice too long delayed is justice denied.” Governor Cuomo then continued, “So we will extend that window for people to bring their case.”
Original CVA Provisions Are Critical To Survivors Seeking Justice
The CVA was enacted on February 14, 2019. It changed the laws about child sex abuse claims in the state of New York. The CVA extended the statute of limitations for cases of child sexual abuse. In doing so, survivors of child sexual abuse were given more time to file civil claims or press criminal charges against their abusers.
A statute of limitations (SOL) is a legal deadline. SOLs are determined at the state level and vary based on the crime.
This was a major step toward justice for survivors of child sexual abuse. However, the new legal deadlines wouldn’t help every victim, especially older victims whose abuse occurred long ago. Some cases would still be time-barred under the new statute. To remedy this issue, state lawmakers also included a one-year “look back” window in the CVA.
During this “look back” window, any survivor of child sexual abuse has the right to file a civil claim against his or her abuser no matter the age of the case.
COVID-19 Restrictions Shorten CVA “Look Back” Window
The one-year filing window was originally set to expire on August 14, 2020. However, due to the pandemic, courts closed for non-essential cases across New York State in March 2020. Without an extension, the year-long “look back” window would be significantly shortened.
The court shutdown made it difficult for survivors to pursue justice. Some survivors struggled to find an attorney to take their cases. In practice, victims’ lack of access to courts shortened the “look back” window.
Governor Cuomo believed the pandemic not only made it difficult to file claims but also severely limited the preparation abilities of lawyers and their clients.
A Public Call To Extend The Deadline
In the midst of pandemic restrictions, a group of victim advocates and survivors asked Governor Cuomo to extend the filing period by a full year. According to the group, almost 1,800 claims were filed by late March, and many more were anticipated.
Governor Cuomo responded by extending the deadline until January 14, 2021. This decision provides a reasonable amount of time for victims to file claims. Legal claims against Catholic priests and other abusers are expected to increase under the CVA. The CVA makes it easier for survivors to file sexual abuse claims against scout leaders, teachers, and other trusted adults who violated their duty to care for and protect children.
Financial Compensation Is Available For Child Sex Abuse Survivors
As awareness of the Catholic Church’s childhood abuses continues to increase, so does the need for justice. In the last few years, state lawmakers, including those in New York, have passed bills to provide more substantial rights to child sexual abuse survivors.
Although every sex abuse lawsuit is unique, victims may be able to recuperate losses related to:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Physical pain
- Mental suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Arbetter, S. (2020, May 5). With Limited Court Access, Advocates Want CVA Look-Back Extension. State of Politics.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. (2020, May 8). Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Amid Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, Governor Cuomo Announces State Will Extend Window for Victims to File Cases under the Child Victims Act until January 14th. New York State.
Yakin, H. (2020, March 16). NY courts cut back to ’essential functions’ amid coronavirus. Times Herald-Record.
(2020, May 8). NY Child Victims Act filing deadline extended to January. Associated Press.