Child Sex Abuse Victims Get Reminder About Open Window for Old Cases Under NY Child Victims Act

Oct 28, 2019

The Child Victims Act passed earlier this year. A window for bringing lawsuits for old abuse cases is open now through August 13, 2020. Statutes of limitations prevented many adult survivors of child sexual abuse from bringing actions.
Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News

Advocates for victims of child sexual abuse and violence are reminding survivors about the chance to file lawsuits for abuse that took place years or decades ago.  Groups that support children are spreading a reminder about New York’s Child Victim’s Act.


Olympic Speed Skater Bridie Farrell came forward with her story about being sexually abused as a teenager to bring attention to the often hidden abuse of children.  Now she says abuse victims have some control over how they want to deal with the traumatic memories.

Former Olympic Speed Skater Bridie Farrell came forward with her history of being abused while a teenager in order to help pass the Child Victims Act. She's now helping victims and survivors to make decisions about whether they want to go forward with lawsuits.
Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News

“From my own experience of being abused when I was 15 by my 33-year-old speed skating teammate, that choice was taken away from me at 15.  So now at 37 I have the choice if I want to proceed in direction ‘A’ or direction ‘B’. But I think ultimately giving that agency back to adult survivors is what’s so moving about it all.” 

The Child Victims Act that went into effect earlier this year provides a one-year window to look back at decades old abuse cases, for which the statute of limitations ran out.  Victims can now bring civil suits against alleged perpetrators and institutions that might have allowed abuse. 

PROVISIONS OF CHILD VICTIMS ACT
(Source: Governor.ny.gov)

  • Increases the amount of time during which perpetrators of these crimes may be held criminally accountable;
  • Allows victims of these crimes to commence a civil lawsuit at any time before they reach 55 years of age;
  • Provides victims whose claims have been time-barred a new opportunity for their day in court by opening a one-year window for them to commence their action;
  • Eliminates the need to file a notice of claim for sexual offenses committed against a minor;
  • Requires judicial training with respect to crimes involving the sexual abuse of minors;
  • Authorizes the Office of Court Administration to promulgate rules and regulations for the timely adjudication of revived actions.

Assembly member Al Stirpe hosted Farrell at a local information session at Cicero School District offices.  He says the Act has a societal purpose alongside personal justice.

“While you can’t change anything that happened in the past, you don’t want people out there that still have the capability of doing this, especially to kids.”

Jeff Dion of the Zero Abuse Project offers legal advice to people considering a lawsuit against an abuser.
Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News

Jeff Dion heads the Zero Abuse Project.  Numerous lawsuits have been filed against assailants … but suits are also targeting institutions, such as churches, boy scouts, and youth sports leagues,  that might have tacitly allowed abuse

“But they also have this tremendous responsibility.  They can’t be blind to the fact that there are perpetrators that are intentionally trying to infiltrate their organization just to get access to kids.  So they can’t bury their head in the sand and say, ‘we didn’t know.’  They have to know and that’s why they have a responsibility to protect kids.  And if they don’t do that, then they need to be held accountable.”

Speed Skater Bridie Farrell started New York Loves Kids to help … she supports lawsuits if they help the victims recover in some way…but warns not to vilify all institutions where an abuser might have preyed on children.

“I would put my kids in speed skating.  I raced countless times in Syracuse.  Speed skating’s the best thing in the world.  There’s one terrible part that happened to me but, at large, it was a great experience.  And the community that comes with that, the community that comes from Catholic Church, religious institutions, Boy Scouts, we shouldn’t wash it all away.  But we should address what the problem is.”

The open window to file suits for past abuse is open until next august.  The law also extends the statute of limitations on abuse cases until the victims is 28 for criminal charges, and until age 55 for civil cases.

Help for victims seeking advice about a possible lawsuit can be found at Zero-AbuseProject.org or NYLovesKids.org