New York Passes Adult Survivors Act
The Adult Survivors Act will give survivors who experienced sexual assault as adults new options. For 1 year, they can sue responsible parties, no matter when the abuse occurred.
On May 24, 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul signed the Adult Survivors Act into law. The law, introduced by Senator Brad Hoylman in October 2019, opens a revival period for time-barred civil lawsuits. It is similar to New York’s Child Victims Act.
During the Adult Survivors Act revival window, adult victims of sexual violence with expired claims have a renewed chance to sue their abusers and any responsible organizations. This window will open six months from the date of the bill’s signing.
On January 11, 2022, legislators in the New York Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Adult Survivors Act. It was then approved by the New York Senate and State Assembly. Now that it is signed into law, the Adult Survivors Act can help bring justice to countless adult sexual abuse survivors.
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The Adult Survivors Act Helps People Who Were Assaulted As Adults
On May 24, 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul signed the Adult Survivors Act into law. New York State survivors who were abused as adults will now have a one-year window in which to file abuse lawsuits. The “look back” window starts on November 24, 2022, and ends on November 24, 2023. This six-month lag gives survivors time to learn about the law and prepare to take legal action.
The Adult Survivors Act allows survivors to file civil lawsuits, even if the abuse occurred a long time ago. Under this New York law, people who were sexually abused in New York after they turned eighteen may file an abuse lawsuit. During the “look back” period, it will not matter if their case would otherwise be barred by the state’s statute of limitations.
The Adult Survivors Act Helps Those Who Didn’t Come Forward
Survivors may file against their abusers. They may also sue the institutions that protected their abusers, such as churches, schools and businesses.
Many survivors who were abused in New York may see justice under the Adult Survivors Act. Studies show that most survivors were abused between ages 14 and 27. The Adult Survivors Act is therefore an important addendum to the CVA, which only applied to survivors abused before they turned 18.
The law’s enactment also acknowledges that it often takes time for adults, as well as children, to come to terms with their abuse. It may also take time for survivors to feel safe taking legal action against an abuser. The law removes the protection provided to predators by New York’s statute of limitations for sexual offenses.
Courts Will Have To Give Survivors’ Cases Priority
The Adult Survivors Act also instructs the court system to prioritize abuse lawsuits filed under this law during the “look back” window. The law may result in a large number of lawsuits being filed. For comparison, more than 11,000 survivors have taken advantage of the CVA. Granting trial preference to Adult Survivors Act cases will help ensure survivors can seek justice in a timely manner.
New York’s Adult Survivors Act’s Path To Becoming Law
The Adult Survivors Act came about, in part, as a response to the Jeffrey Epstein scandal. Multiple victims were legally adults when the sexual abuse occurred. However, their abuse did not come to light until the statute of limitations had passed. This left many adult victims with limited legal options.
A statute of limitations (SOL) is a type of law that defines a legal deadline. SOLs vary based on the jurisdiction, the crime and the intended legal action (i.e., criminal charges versus a civil claim).
In 2019, former Governor Cuomo signed Senate Bill S6574 (S6574) into law. This bill extended the New York statute of limitations on sexual crimes. The new law gave adult victims 20 years to file a civil lawsuit. But it was not a retroactive measure. Under the new statute set in place by S6574, those with time-barred cases were still unable to take legal action.
In response, Senator Brad Hoylman introduced the Adult Survivors Act to build on past legislative successes by giving similar legal options to more survivors.
“For too long, justice has been out of reach for adult survivors of sexual crimes […] they deserve our support whenever they decide they are ready to pursue justice.”
It is not uncommon for survivors to delay reporting their abuse, regardless of when it occurred. They may feel pressured by social stigma, or even their abuser, to stay silent. It may also take years for a survivor to come to terms with the crimes done to them. By the time they are ready to come forward, the opportunity to hold their abuser accountable may have passed.
The Adult Survivors Act aims to rectify this by opening a one-year “look back” window. During this period, survivors who were adults at the time of their abuse will be able to file a civil lawsuit regardless of when the sexual offense took place.
Countless survivors stand to benefit from the Adult Survivors Act. Adult victims of rideshare assault, food delivery assault and church sexual abuse would also have a revived chance at justice and compensation.
New York’s Child Victim Act
The Adult Survivors Act follows in the footsteps of the Child Victims Act (CVA). Signed into law in February of 2019, the CVA opened a one-year “look back” window for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The original window was extended in 2020 following COVID-19-related court closures. It closed on August 14, 2021.
During the three-year period, thousands of child sex abuse lawsuits were filed. For example, survivors filed more than 9,000 church sex abuse lawsuits in that time. Many of these survivors have received compensation through settlements. Several New York dioceses also declared bankruptcy as a result of these lawsuits.
For many victims, seeing their abusers and the responsible organizations held accountable is a crucial step towards healing. With the Adult Survivors Act, many survivors of adult sexual abuse across New York may finally have their day in court.
Adult Survivors Act, Senate Bill S66 (New York 2022). Retrieved January 19, 2022.
An act to amend the criminal procedure law and the civil practice law and rules, in relation to statutes of limitations for certain sex crimes, Senate Bill S6574 (New York 2020).
Ashford, G. (2022, May 24). New York Will Allow Adult Victims to Revive Decades-Old Sex Abuse Claims. The New York Times.
Brovner, L., Peters, M. (2021, November 4). It’s Time for New York to Pass the Adult Survivors Act. Gotham Gazette.
Governor Kathy Hochul. (2022, May 24). Governor Hochul Signs Adult Survivors Act [Press Release].
The New York State Senate. (2019, October 25). Senator Brad Hoylman Introduces “Adult Survivors Act” To Allow Adult Victims Of Sex Crimes To Seek Justice [Press Release].
The New York State Senate. (2022, January 11). Senate Judiciary Committee Passes Hoylman / Rosenthal’s Adult Survivors Act [Press Release].