NYS Legislature Approve Child Victims Act; Survivors Get More Time to Report Crimes

Jan 28, 2019

Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, at right, speaks at a rally for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, along with Michael Polenberg (orange shirt) of Safe Horizons and former State Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, who was the original sponsor of the bill in the Assembly.
Credit Karen DeWitt / WXXI News

Victims of abuse in Central New York and across the state might find solace in the new Child Victims Act that was passed in the state legislature today. Up until this point, the statute of limitations on a sexual abuse crime ran out when the victim turned 23.  Monday, that age was increased to 55 for a civil statute and 28 for a criminal statute.


Survivor Brian Toale says this is a much-needed change of pace. 

You do spend a lot of time trying to get away of it. Then it haunts your life.  Eventually, you put two and two together, but you're middle-aged when you're ready to deal with it.  That's when you find out there's nothing you can do in terms of justice.”                                    

The act will also include a ‘look-back’ period for victims whose statute of limitations has run out, but who would like to file a civil lawsuit. Vice President of Government Affairs at Safe Horizon Michael Polenberg  knows this is important for survivors across the state.

It's says to survivors that the state understands in a much more profound way that there are any number of reasons, mostly related to trauma, for why a child may not be able to make a disclosure by the age of 23.  It aligns our laws a little more closely with what the human experience is for someone who's been sexually abused as a child.”                                

Polenberg is quick to note that the bill does not give the victim an advantage in the proceedings; they will still need to provide appropriate evidence in order to win their case. However, the act opens the door for victims whose previous options were to live without justice for their abuse. Brian Toale hopes the act will change the way in which the government looks at sexual abuse cases.

"That should be what the difference is now...that names will be named, and predators will be exposed.  That's at least what we’re really hoping.”                             

Toale says in the past, abusers were not named in settlements reached in court.  Click here for more on the Child Victims Act.