The impact of the Adult Survivors Act

Politico [Arlington VA]

November 22, 2023

By Emily Ngo, Nick Reisman, and Jeff Coltin

[Politico’s New York Playbook]

Harvey Weinstein. Bill Cosby. Donald Trump. Sean Combs.

Lawsuits accusing high-powered men of sexual misconduct were the marquee cases during the one-year window created by the state’s Adult Survivors Act.

But the legislation expiring Thursday did more than target big names: It helped people of all walks find justice, its sponsors say.

“We are changing a dynamic, the antiquated way we view statutes of limitations, and we’ve gained new knowledge through the Child Victims Act and also the #MeToo movement about how women – for the most part, women – were silenced, harassed, intimidated,” Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal told Playbook.

Both Rosenthal and state Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal said they hope to extend the measure that has allowed for the filing of civil lawsuits regardless of when the alleged abuse took place.

In its final weeks, the act was used to sue Cosby for allegations including battery, assault and false imprisonment and state Sen. Kevin Parker for alleged rape. (Neither defendant has commented on the charges.)

And former state Sen. Tom Duane filed a lawsuit accusing an Albany doctor of molesting him.

It also ensnared institutions.

“There’s so many stories, so many, not just mine,” a woman who says she was repeatedly raped in state prison and a city jail told the Associated Press.

“We hope that as a result of the Adult Survivors Act that there can be real, lasting, meaningful change in these facilities, such that sexual abuse is not seen as all but a given when somebody is incarcerated,” Michael Polenberg, a vice president at Safe Horizon, which helps victims of abuse, told Playbook.

At least 2,587 lawsuits were launched due to the legislation, according to an AP count. Some lawsuits could represent several survivors.

A rush of new filings was expected this week. State Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas noted Tuesday that there’s still time to file a claim before the window closes on Thanksgiving.

New Yorkers should be grateful this holiday for those “identifying individuals or institutions that still might be inflicting harm,” Hoylman-Sigal told Playbook.

“There hasn’t been a single verifiable false claim being brought forward,” he added. “That says something about who seeks redress under these types of bills. This is not an issue that survivors take lightly.”

There is momentum behind a push to lengthen the act’s window – similar to what was done with the Child Victims Act, which was extended until 2021.

“We need time as humans to process what happens to us,” Erica Vladimer, co-founder of the Sexual Harassment Working Group, told Playbook. “Trauma takes time.” – Emily Ngo