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Survivors of child sexual assault earn major victory

Legislation extends statute of limitations on sexual abuse

After a long and bitter battle for legislation that would allow New York sex abuse victims to sue the Roman Catholic Church and other organizations for monetary damages, the New York State Legislature unanimously passed the Child Victims Act on Jan. 28, 2019. Governor Cuomo signed the bill into law on Feb. 14, 2019, extending the statute of limitations for victims of sexual abuse.

The Act allows child victims to seek prosecution against their abuser until the age of 55 in civil cases, a significant increase from the previous limit of age 23.

Law expands civil and criminal justice for sexual abuse victims

The Child Victim Act also includes a "look-back window." Adult survivors of any age, who had been previously prohibited by the statute of limitations, can sue within the next 365 days

Many victims never disclose their abuse. According to statistics from Child USA, the average age of disclosure by victims who were sexually abused as children is age 52, due to prolonged or delayed trauma.

Child USA's Marci Hamilton said that extending the statute of limitation for civil litigation will help expand the public knowledge of how widespread child sexual abuse is. She said it is often during civil cases that experts learn about how patterns of abuse operate.

On the criminal side, the bill will give law enforcement more time to file charges against abusers, with victims able to seek felony criminal charges until their 28th birthday, and misdemeanor charges until their 25th birthday.

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