What does New York’s new statute of limitations for sex abuse mean?

| Sep 17, 2019 | Sexual Abuse |

Being sexually abused is traumatizing, and that trauma often causes victims to suppress the memory of what happened until they are psychologically able to deal with it. That can take years, in some cases.

That’s why it’s so important that New York passed the Child Victims Act. It extended the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits involving child sex abuse. Previously, child sex abuse lawsuits had to be filed before the victim’s 23rd birthday.

That meant that many people who were so traumatized that they were couldn’t face the memories were left without a remedy once they began to deal with their trauma. The more traumatized the victim, the more likely they were to be unable to file suit before their 23rd birthday. In other words, the worse the abuse, the more likely the perpetrator would avoid liability.

Now, the statute of limitations has been extended substantially. Victims of sexual abuse can now file suit until age 55. In addition, it allows people who were previously blocked by the statute of limitations to file suit, as long as they do so within a year of August 14, 2019. This is called the “look-back period.”

The look-back period may mean thousands of new lawsuits

New York is one of a dozen states that has extended its statute of limitations for child sex abuse lawsuits. When California did in 2003, more than 1,000 lawsuits were filed during its look-back period — mostly against the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church is among a number of institutions that have been found to have committed child sex abuse and covered it up. There have been many reports of child sex abuse in the Boy Scouts, in Boys and Girls Clubs of America, at camps, in schools and in medical settings. Some of these institutions are naturally concerned that the new statute of limitations and look-back period will open the doors to lawsuits that would have been denied in the past.

The Catholic Archdiocese of New York recently sued its insurance providers in an effort to ensure it will be covered for these new lawsuits. So is the Rockefeller University Hospital, which will be facing dozens of cases involving abuse by an endocrinologist.

Talk to a lawyer right away about your lawsuit

The Child Victims Act provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for victims who have been turned away before by the short statute of limitations. That said, you should have your case evaluated right away so that, if necessary, it can be filed before the look-back period closes.