Overdue justice for victims of sexual abuse


January 29, 2019

For decades, young people were victimized twice — first by their tormentors, then by institutions that covered up what happened, protected abusers and offered victims no recourse. No opportunity for justice, no opportunity for compensation, no opportunity to heal. Religious institutions, schools, scouting groups, athletic organizations, politicians and even families were complicit in shielding perpetrators, hiding the truth and exacerbating the suffering.

The Child Victims Act passed overwhelmingly by the New York State Legislature was long overdue. It finally will change the dynamic surrounding childhood sexual abuse in favor of victims, and force a consideration of cases long buried in time. In the bill that passed, school districts were not exempted; this heinous behavior must be rooted out everywhere, which won’t happen without the purge the legislation promises.

The bill raises the age by which victims can pursue criminal charges against abusers to 28, and allows survivors to file civil suits up to age 55 — critical changes since victims can struggle for years to admit and address what happened to them. The measure includes what had been the most controversial provision, a 1-year window for people abused in the past to sue for damages, regardless of when the period expired for such lawsuits. That time frame should be adequate for the aggrieved to file claims while allowing the institutions being sued to know with certainty their possible liability.

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