Victims of childhood sexual abuse in New York have been asking lawmakers for a chance to seek and obtain justice. According to a report in The New York Times, powerful interests including insurance companies, private schools and leaders in the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Jewish communities have repeatedly blocked these efforts.
However, in November, after Democrats took control of the state Senate, both the Senate and the Assembly overwhelmingly approved the Child Victims Act, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has vowed to sign the bill into law. The bill passed with every senator, Republican and Democrat, voting for the bill even though it did not come to the Senate floor for a vote under the Republican majority.
What Does the Bill Do?
The bill significantly extends New York’s statute of limitations for child sex abuse. Prior to this law, criminal or civil charges were required to be brought before the survivor’s 23rd birthday making New York’s laws among the most restrictive in the country, right alongside states such as Alabama and Mississippi. Most other states allow child sex abuse claims to be brought even decades after the assault has occurred. Nine states have no statute of limitations at all.
Under this new law, prosecutors can bring criminal charges until a victim has turned 28. Also, victims can sue for damages until age 55. The bill will create a one-year look-back window during which old claims that had already passed the statute of limitations may be revived. Victims will be able to name the abusers, the institutions that harbored them and in many cases, moved them within the system exposing other children to predatory behavior.
Protecting Victims’ Rights
Governor Cuomo said during a news conference that he was following the lead of Pope Francis who has called for a fuller reckoning of crimes committed by priests and other church officials. A Grand Jury report released in Pennsylvania last year, which shook the entire nation, reported that more than 300 Catholic priests across Pennsylvania sexually abused children over seven decades while being protected by a hierarchy of church leaders who covered up the abuse. The investigation, one of the broadest inquiries into clergy sex abuse in U.S. history, identified 1,000 children who were victims, but also stated that there probably are thousands more. Officials in several other states have called for a similar inquiry.
The fight over the bill’s passage has pitted activists, advocates and survivors against large institutions such as the Roman Catholic Church, the American Insurance Association and the Boy Scouts of America, which have quietly hired paid lobbyists to work behind the scenes to oppose the legislation. The New York’s Catholic Conference spent more than $1.8 million on lobbyists in Albany to represent its interests, the Times reports. However, the state’s bishops later said they would support the law as long as it applied equally to public and private institutions, a provision the bill’s sponsors quickly adopted. The next step, legislators say, will be to notify survivors across the state regarding their rights during the look-back window.
The Impact of Child Sexual Abuse
For victims, the effects of child sexual abuse can be devastating. Victims may feel short-term symptoms such as thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, sleep issues, eating disorders and problems at school. They may also experience long-term symptoms such as anxiety, suicidal ideation, insomnia, alcohol or drug abuse and anxiety attacks. Survivors may feel anger at the abuser and other adults who failed to protect them.
Victims may also feel betrayed and unable to trust adults because someone they relied on caused them great harm or failed to protect them. Victims may also feel powerless because the abuse has repeatedly violated their bodies. Victims of child sexual abuse also have high rates or re-victimization (later sexual assaults) compared to non-victims.
The effects of child sexual abuse tend to stay with victims long after the abusive incidents have ended. If you or a loved one has been abused as a child, under the new law, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the abuser and the institutions that harbored the abuser. You maybe able to seek compensation for damages including, but not limited to, medical expenses, lost income and benefits, cost of psychological therapy, past and future pain and suffering, etc.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been the victim of child sexual abuse, the experienced New York personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your legal rights and options, and also fight hard to recover just compensation for you.
Please contact us TOLL FREE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-WORK-4-YOU (1-800-967-5496). WE CAN EVEN COME TO YOU. There is no attorneys’ fee unless we recover money for you. We can also help with personal injury and medical malpractice cases in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Florida. If you have been seriously injured in any of the 50 U.S. states, please call us and we will try to help you with your case.
Other TOLL FREE phone numbers for us are:
1-800-RADIO-LAW, 1-888-WYPADEK, OR 1-800-LAS-LEYES
Please visit us at: www.WORK4YOULAW.com
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