Sexual assault victims now have more time to file their cases during New York State’s “look back” window, which is a provision of the Child Victims Act (CVA). When COVID-19 restrictions effectively shortened this window, state lawmakers took action. Lawmakers passed legislation that will extend the window’s deadline from August 13, 2020, until August 14, 2021. The bill awaits Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature.
COVID-19 Affects New York Court System
For some Americans, COVID-19 has affected their legal rights. In New York State, courts were closed to non-essential cases for several months. This restriction greatly affected child sexual abuse victims looking to file civil lawsuits under the CVA.
COVID-19 Affects Child Sexual Abuse Victims
The New York CVA was passed in February 2019. The CVA included a provision for a one-year legal “look back” window. Beginning August 14, 2019, any survivor of child sexual abuse could file a civil lawsuit against their abuser, no matter how long ago the incident occurred. This provision made exceptions for older cases that were past the state’s statute of limitations.
A statute of limitations (SOL) is a legal deadline. SOLs are determined at the state level and vary based on the crime.
The “look back” window was set to close August 13, 2020. However, the year-long window was shortened significantly because of the COVID-19 court restrictions. Cases already filed under the CVA were paused, and new cases could not be filed until the courts reopened for non-essential cases.
Governor Cuomo Passes An Emergency Executive Order
In early May 2020, Governor Cuomo passed an emergency executive order to address the shortened “look back” window. In an effort to restore the time lost due to COVID-19, the executive order extended the “look back” window by five months. Any victim of child sexual abuse may file a civil lawsuit against their abuser until January 14, 2021.
After the new deadline passes, survivors must follow the statute of limitations for child sex abuse cases in New York State. For older victims of abuse, this window may be their one chance to seek legal justice in New York.
NYS Lawmakers Pass A Longer “Look Back” Window Extension
Several weeks after Governor Cuomo signed his executive order, New York State lawmakers passed a second extension for the CVA’s legal “look back” window. The new legislation extends the window by a full year.
The bill passed unanimously (60–0) in the state Senate. The state Assembly passed the bill 135–9. It now goes to Governor Cuomo to review and sign. If he signs the bill into law, survivors of child sexual abuse will have until August 14, 2021, to file a civil claim in the state of New York.
If passed, this measure will correct the effects the COVID-19 court restrictions had on abuse victims. Additionally, it will offer even more time for victims of child sexual abuse to assert their legal rights.
Arbetter, S. (2020, May 27). Legislature Passes CVA Lookback Window Extension. Spectrum Local News.
Slattery, D. (2020, May 27). New York lawmakers extend ‘look back’ window for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Daily News.
(2020, May 27). NY Legislature votes to extend Child Victims Act deadline. Associated Press.