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NY Passes Bill Easing Statute of Limitations for Sexual Abuse Survivors

New York lawmakers passed a bill to lengthen the time child victims of sexual abuse have to sue their abusers or bring criminal charges.

Statutes of limitations for child molestation victims are set to change in New York which previously had one of the country’s strictest laws on the books. Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, Manhattan Democrats, initiated the legislation to drastically extend the time victims have to come forward. The new bill says that victims of child molestation have until age 55 to file a civil lawsuit and age 28 for criminal charges.

The new legislation is known as the Child Victims Act. Following the passage, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo promised to sign it into law.

The legislation would have been passed years ago, but Republicans controlled state legislature opposed the bill. As soon as Democrats won the Senate last fall, they brought the bill to a vote. This time, both Democrats and Republicans voted in favor of the Child Victims Act, with every Republican Senator voting yes. Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins took the lead, and the bill succeeded.

“We apologize for not hearing you soon enough,” Senator Stewart-Cousins said on the state Senate floor to survivors of child molestation. “We apologize for making you wait so long. The wait is over.”

The Catholic Church Embraced the Act After Revisions to Treat All Defendants Equally

Previously the statute of limitations in New York prevented victims of molestation from filing civil or criminal charges against their molesters past the age of 23. But victims and advocates criticized this statute, saying it takes decades before sexual assault victims report their abusers. Now with the new bill, victims have until age 55 to file civil charges and age 28 for criminal charges and the bill provides for a one-year litigation window for past sexual abuse crimes now made illegal.

The one-year litigation window had been one of the sticking points for opponents of the new bill. Groups like the Catholic Church worried it could cost devastating financial harm. When a similar bill was passed in California, the Catholic Church paid $1.2 billion for settlements in 2002. However, the church changed its stance a week ago when revisions to the bill allowed equal treatment for all entities whether private or public.

In a joint statement, New York state’s Catholic bishops said they “pray that the passage of the Child Victims Act brings some measure of healing to all survivors.”

Republicans Worry the Act Could Bankrupt Organizations for Claims Older Than 50 Years

Hundreds of victims of child molestation took to the street to celebrate the passage of the act.

No fewer than four lawmakers shared personal stories of sexual molestation as children during the debate. Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou shared how a teacher molested her at 13, and said she could still smell the encounter.

The Senate earlier passed the bill 63-0, and it ultimately passed in the Assembly 130-3. Only three lawmakers voted against the act.



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