Church Sexual Abuse and the Child Victims Act

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Millions of Americans have been the victims of child sexual abuse. Because of the nature of these types of offenses, many victims are unable to come forward to press charges or to file civil sexual assault lawsuits until the statute of limitations has passed. Recently, New York passed a law to address this problem called the Child Victims Act. This law extends the statute of limitations for filing civil sexual assault claims against the perpetrators and also allows claims that have already expired to be filed during the next one-year period. Sexual assault victims who were abused as children in New York and who live in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina need to be aware of this new law so they can exercise their rights and hold their abusers accountable for their actions.

What is the New York Child Victims Act?

The Child Victims Act or CVA is a law that was passed in early 2019 by the New York legislature. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it into law on Feb. 14, 2019. The Act, SB 2440, amended the New York Criminal Procedure Law at § 3010(3)(f) to extend the statute of limitations for criminal prosecutions so that it does not begin to run until the victims reach age 23 or from the date when the offense is reported to law enforcement officers. The Act also changed the civil statute of limitations to allow victims more time to bring civil lawsuits against their abusers and the institutions for which they worked.

The extension of the statute of limitations in the Child Victims Act means that child sexual abuse survivors who were abused in New York have more time to report what happened to them so that criminal charges can be brought. The victims also have more time to file claims for monetary damages. The law also allows victims to file claims against institutions such as orphanages, churches, and schools that may have played a role in their abuse. Judges who hear these cases will be provided with specialized training in how to handle child sexual abuse cases under this new law.

The child sex abuse civil statute of limitations in New York

Before the passage of the Child Victims Act, survivors of childhood sexual abuse had to file their civil lawsuits against their abusers no later than one to five years from the date their abuse occurred or from the date that they reached age 18. While the limitations period did not start running until the victims reached age 18, many victims still did not file their lawsuits on time. This is because childhood sexual abuse victims have a hard time coming forward or coming to terms with what happened to them until years after the fact. This meant that many survivors sexual abuse in New York were unable to pursue claims for monetary damages because the statute of limitations had expired before they were emotionally ready to file their lawsuits.

Under the Child Victims Act, New York childhood sexual abuse victims can file claims up until they reach age 55. The law also includes a look-back provision that could potentially impact adults who are older and who suffered childhood sexual abuse even 50 or 60 years ago. Under the look-back provision, the victims of childhood sexual abuse that occurred in New York whose ability to file lawsuits under the former law had expired and who were consequently prevented from filing claims will be able to file lawsuits within one year from the effective date of the CVA. The CVA’s effective date was Aug. 14, 2019, which means that time-barred claims for New York childhood sexual abuse can now be filed up until Aug. 13, 2020. This right to revive an expired claim for child sexual abuse is important for survivors who would otherwise not have been able to file lawsuits. It allows them to potentially hold their abusers and the institutions for which they worked accountable for their wrongful actions.

Time to file claims under the CVA

When a claim can be filed will depend on whether the claims have expired or not. For claims that have not yet expired under the former limitations period that started running once the victims turned 18 will now be allowed to be filed by the survivors until they reach age 55. Claims that were already time-barred under the former statute can be filed during the one-year period that started running on Aug. 14, 2019. This means that victims of child sexual abuse in New York that occurred decades ago and for which the victims were unable to bring claims can now file lawsuits during the next year until Aug. 13, 2020.

Defendants to claims under the CVA

In addition to the perpetrators, the CVA allows the survivors of child sexual abuse that occurred in New York to file claims against public and private institutions that may have also been involved in their abuse, including for the negligence of the institutions. Under the old law, people who brought claims against public institutions had to provide notice of their claims within a certain period after their abuse before they could file their actions. The CVA removed this requirement so that survivors can now file claims against public institutions within the next year for claims that had expired under the old law.

Changes to the criminal statute of limitations

Criminal charges against the perpetrators of child sexual abuse in New York previously could only be filed before the survivors reached age 23. The CVA extended the criminal statute of limitations for felony sexual assault claims that involved victims under the age of 18 by five years, which means that the victims will now have until age 28 to press criminal charges against their abusers. Misdemeanor child sexual abuse charges previously had to be filed no later than when the victims reached age 20. Now, the victims will have until they reach age 25 to press charges for misdemeanor sex abuse claims.

Impact of the Child Victims Act

On Aug. 14, 2019, the date that the Child Victims Act became effective in New York, hundreds of lawsuits were filed against alleged abusers and institutions. The law means that thousands of people who were abused as children while they were in New York could have the right to file claims. Even if people no longer live in New York but were sexually abused as children in the state, they can file civil sexual abuse lawsuits against those who were responsible for their abuse within the next year. Because of the anticipated onslaught of new cases under the CVA, each judicial district in New York has designated judges who will handle nothing but these claims.

What to do if you are a victim of child sexual abuse that happened in New York

If you were the victim of sexual abuse in New York when you were a child, you may have the right to file a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator and the public or private institution that played a role in your abuse even if you currently live in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. While the look-back period allows your claim to be filed up until Aug. 13, 2020, you should talk to an experienced civil sexual assault lawyer as soon as possible instead of waiting. This can give your attorney more time to investigate your claim so that he or she might present the strongest case possible on your behalf. Contact the attorneys at The Lovely Law Firm to schedule a consultation by calling us at 843-839-4111. We listen, we believe you, and we care.

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