Advocates and lawmakers want New York child sexual abuse survivors to know one-year window to seek civil action is about to open

By Denis Slattery
New York Daily News
July 28, 2019

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo is seen with former Assemblywoman Margaret Markey after signing of the Child Victims Act in the offices of the NY Daily News at 4 New York Plaza in New York, NY, USA on February 14, 2019.
Photo by Mark Woodward

Survivors of child sex abuse will soon have a new opportunity to seek justice.

The recently enacted Child Victims Act dramatically changed the legal landscape in New York State, empowering those who were subjected to sexual abuse at a young age and offering them new ways make things right.

Child victims of abuse are now able to seek criminal prosecution against an abuser until the age of 28, an increase from the old age limit of 23. In civil cases, victims can seek prosecution until they turn 55.

The law also opens up a one-year window that begins Aug. 14 allowing victims older than 23 to sue their abuser or any institution that helped to cover up the offense — regardless of how long ago the act occurred.

Advocates and lawmakers are launching a concerted effort to ensure survivors are aware of their options as the window approaches.

“The word ‘victimization’ just means that at some point in time someone else was in control. This act puts survivors in control and gives them the ability to make a decision about what’s right for them," Jeff Dion, CEO of the Zero Abuse Project, a nonprofit advocacy group, told the Daily News.

“We want survivors to make an informed decision about what’s right for them. We don’t want the decision made for them because the clock runs out,” Dion added.

The Zero Abuse Project and NY Loves Kids, a group founded by former speed skater and abuse survivor Bridie Farrell, will host an informational meeting in Queens on Tuesday with Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Queens) timed to alert abuse victims of the upcoming one-year civil window.

While lawyers won’t be on hand at the sessions, the advocates will offer attendees advice on how to pick an attorney and what types of questions to ask when seeking representation.

“There’s been a lot of publicity, but people aren’t necessarily aware of their rights. The statute of limitations has been expanded, and there’s still time for many victims to still bring suit,” Weprin said. “I think it’s important to make the community aware of that.”

Additional meetings will be held in the Bronx, Manhattan and Syracuse in coming weeks.

Safe Horizon, the largest victims service provider in the country, is helping to get the message out with an online push meant to ensure that attorney ads aren’t the only option when survivors seek information online. The nonprofit recently launched a detailed website with information about the Child Victims Act and how it has changed the playing field in survivors’ favor.

“Safe Horizon worked for years to pass the Child Victims Act so that more survivors could seek justice in the courts,” said Safe Horizon CEO Ariel Zwang. “Now it is our responsibility to make sure those survivors know how this new law can help them. The website will educate survivors so they can make the decision that is right for them. We know this is hard, and Safe Horizon is here to help.”


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