Legislation Gives Childhood Sexual Abuse Victims Chance to Seek Justice
By Kathy Welsh
HudsValley News Network
May 2, 2018
CHESTER – Assemblyman James Skoufis announced he co-sponsored and helped pass the Child Victims Act, which allows more victims of childhood sexual abuse to face their abusers in civil or criminal court (A.5885-A).
The measure extends the statutes of limitations for civil and criminal cases and provides a year-long window for past victims who previously missed their statute of limitations to bring their predators to court.
“There’s absolutely nothing more despicable than willfully harming a child,” Skoufis said. “To make a tragic situation even worse, our justice system works all-too-often in favor of these sick individuals, rather than their innocent victims. Childhood victims are often too afraid or traumatized to come forward until they’re adults, and by then the statute of limitations has run out. We must change the law so that more survivors can seek justice and move forward with their lives.”
Each year, over 63,000 children are sexually abused – and that’s just the number of cases that are actually reported, said Skoufis. In reality, countless cases go unreported and many survivors live in silence, Skoufis noted. With such wide support among the public, Skoufis was disappointed the Child Victims Act died in the Senate last year and was not included as part of the state budget this year.
“I applaud each and every person who has spoken up to advocate for this legislation,” Skoufis said. “I urge the Senate to listen to the will of the people and stand up for survivors. There’s no excuse for allowing vile perpetrators to live without repercussions while their victims continue to bear the pain and trauma.”
The Assembly bill would amend the criminal procedure law to extend the statute of limitations and allow criminal cases to be commenced until the victim turns age 28 for felonies and age 25 for misdemeanors. Skoufis noted that cases for top-level sex offenses can already be commenced at any time under existing law.
The bill would also push back the statute of limitations to permit civil actions to be brought until the victim’s 50th birthday.
Additionally, the measure creates a one-year window for adult survivors to revive cases that, under current law, are barred because the statute of limitations has expired. This one-year window is vitally important to allow victims who have lived with the terrible effects of childhood sexual abuse to finally seek justice in the courts, Skoufis added.
In addition, the Child Victims Act would treat public and private entities equally by removing the current notice of claim requirement for public entities. It also requires judges to undergo additional training for cases involving the sexual abuse of minors and gives these revived civil cases a trial preference so they are moved forward more quickly in court.