Sex abuse cases still being filed in last days of Adult Survivors Act window

Journal News - [White Plains NY]

November 21, 2023

By Diana Dombrowski

The window to file cases under the Adult Survivors Act closes Thursday after giving survivors of sexual assault a year to sue their alleged abusers.

The look-back window gave survivors a chance to file cases regardless of when the alleged abuse occurred, opening up the possibility of holding abusers accountable after the statute of limitations on such cases had already passed.

Anna Kull, an attorney who has filed more than 600 claims under the Adult Survivors Act, said Tuesday she was still getting calls from people interested in filing claims.

“I’m a big supporter of the windows, but I think they’re too short,” Kull said. “I don’t think we should be placing a limit on the time because there’s no limit on someone’s trauma.”

Thousands of claims filed

More than 2,600 cases had been filed as of this month, though delays in reporting suggest that number will increase.

Six hundred of the claims Kull has filed come from women who were allegedly assaulted while in prison. Another 30 are from people outside who were allegedly assaulted under other circumstance, including by doctors.

The Adult Survivors Act was similar to the Child Victims Act, but instead gave people who were at least 18 years old when the abuse occurred the chance to file a case. Around 10,800 cases were filed under the Child Victims Act when the window closed in August 2019.

Some of the alleged victims contacting Kull in the last weeks before the deadline were just hearing about the law, she said. Others knew about the window and decided to file cases because they knew they were running out of time.

Kull said a one-year window isn’t enough time to give all sex abuse survivors a chance to file cases and noted that survivors had more time to file under the Child Victims Act because the window was extended due to the pandemic.

“There’s an immeasurable amount of survivors,” she said.

Impact remains to be seen

Heather Cucolo, a professor at New York Law School who has consulted attorneys on Adult Survivors Act cases, said one difference between the cases filed under the Child Victims Act and the Adult Survivors Act could be in how damages are determined.

One consideration is simply how much time a victim has suffered after surviving the abuse, Cucolo said. Some cases filed under the Child Victims Act were related to abuse that occurred decades ago.

“The extent of the trauma and the damage is going to just occur over a longer period of time in that person’s life, potentially equating to higher number of dollars,” Cucolo said.

Only time will tell how the Adult Survivors Act cases play out in court.

“Just because these cases are filed doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily going to gain any traction or actually result in any type of conclusion that might benefit the plaintiff or plaintiffs,” Cucolo said.

Another challenge in Adult Survivors Act cases may be attitudes toward adult victims compared to children, Cucolo said, noting public sentiment that children are true victims.

“I think that there’s maybe a different sympathy, and how that plays into these cases will be interesting and how that plays into what settlements come down the line,” Cucolo said.

Contact Diana Dombrowski at Follow her on Twitter at @domdomdiana.