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Window to file Child Sex Abuse Cases from Years or Decades Ago Opens Wednesday for New York Victims

Victims of child sexual abuse in New York have a window to bring charges against abusers starting today that had been closed due to statutes of limitations.  It can take years for a survivor to come forward.

Experts are planning for thousands of abuse cases to hit the courts … now that adults who were abused years ago can go after their abusers.  It used to be that someone only had until age 23 to report being attacked as a child.  Jeff Dion of the Zero Abuse Project explains victims suffer substance abuse, depression, bad relationships and even suicide.

“But oftentimes these problems don’t manifest themselves until adulthood. And so it’s often difficult for survivors to connect the abuse to the resulting harm.  It’s like being exposed to asbestos today and getting lung cancer 30 years from now.”

Dion spoke in Syracuse on the Child Victims Act, passed earlier this year, that opens up a one-year window with an indefinite look-back time.  It took years to pass the Act … and Assembly member Bill Magnarelli didn’t support it until it covered all possible victims.

“There wasn’t a way to get victims of abuse justice if they were victims in certain organizations, say like a public school.  The initial statute wouldn’t have helped them.  This statute does what it’s supposed to do and I’m proud to have voted for it.”

Victims have the one-year-look back period for any abuse, no matter how old.  After that, the law also changes statues of limitations – criminal charges to a victim’s age 28, and age 55 for civil suits.  Locally McMahon Ryan and Vera House can offer help to survivors if they’re ready to open sometimes decades-old wounds to gain justice or relief.

(Source: Safe Horizons)

The Child Victims Act gives survivors of child sexual abuse more time to seek justice in our courts. Moving forward, under the law survivors who were under the age of 23 on February 14, 2019, will now have until:

  • Their 55th birthday to file a civil lawsuit against their abuser.
  • Their 25th birthday to file criminal misdemeanor charges against their abusers and their 28th birthday to file criminal felony charges.

The CVA also creates a one-year “window,” beginning August 14, 2019, when ANY adult survivor of child sexual abuse can file a civil lawsuit against their abuser and/or a negligent institution, no matter how long ago the abuse took place.
Zero Abuse Project's Dion says abusers often get help from institutions that hire them or bring them on as volunteers, putting them in a position of trust to potential victims.  He says that authority can play into the grooming of a victim over time. 

He adds lawsuits against such companies or organizations for past abuse are still necessary.  

"If a perpretrator is still alive, they're probably still abusing kids. ... If it happened within an institution, then that institution is still probably not taking enough steps to uncover this and keep kids safe."  

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.