What is the Child Victims Act?

The Child Victims Act (CVA) extends the statute of limitations for a survivor of child sexual abuse in criminal and civil cases in New York. This means there is now more time for a survivor of child sexual abuse to press criminal charges. And, in civil cases, the CVA extends the period of time during which a survivor of child sexual abuse can file a claim for money damages. The CVA also allows claims to be filed against institutions that may have been involved in the abuse. Judges will also receive special training in dealing with cases involving child sexual abuse.

Statute of Limitations for Civil Cases

  • How has the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse changed in civil cases?

Before, survivors of child sexual abuse had from one (1) to five (5) years to bring a civil lawsuit against their abuser(s). The one (1) to five (5) year time period started after the victim turned eighteen (18) years old. For a long time, it has been recognized that it is very difficult for survivors of child sexual abuse to come forward or even come to terms with the trauma until many years later.  As a result, many survivors could not pursue a claim for damages because the one (1) to five (5) time period expired by the time they were ready – emotionally and otherwise – to bring a claim for money damages.

Now, the CVA helps survivors by extending the statute of limitations for civil claims so that survivors can file a claim until they are 55 years old.

There is another very important part of the CVA which applies to civil cases. The CVA allows survivors of child sexual abuse – who were unable to file a lawsuit under the old law – to have a one (1)-year “look back” period during which they can file a civil claim. This means that a civil case which had already expired under the old statute of limitations can now be filed within this one (1)-year period. This is a very important right which provides survivors who would not have been able to file a claim previously to be able to file a claim for money damages now.

Filing a Claim

  • When can a survivor of child sexual abuse file a civil claim?

There are two important differences in the new statute of limitations under the CVA –

  1. For all claims that have not already expired under the old statute of limitations period of one (1) to five (5) years, starting after the survivor turned eighteen (18): The survivor of child sexual abuse will have until the age of 55 to file a claim.
  2. For all claims that have already expired under the old statute of limitations: The CVA provides a one (1)-year extension for claims to be filed now. This means survivors are now able to seek money damages, but they must file their claims within the new one (1)-year period. This new one (1)-year period will begin six (6) months after the governor signed the CVA. The governor signed the CVA on February 14, 2019.
  • Who can survivors of child sexual abuse file a claim against?

Under the CVA, survivors can now file a claim against private and public institutions that may have also been involved in the abuse (this includes negligence of the institution). This is because the CVA removed “the notice of claim” requirement under the old law which usually applies before someone can bring a claim against a public institution. Survivors can file claims against these institutions during the new one (1)-year extension period for claims that had already expired under the old statute of limitations.

Statute of Limitations for Criminal Cases

  • How has the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse changed for felony offenses?

Before, the statute of limitations for felony offenses ended when the survivor of child sex abuse reached the age of 23.

Now, the CVA increases the statute of limitations for felony offenses by five (5) years. This means survivors can press charges until they are 28 years old.

  • How has the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse changed for misdemeanor offenses?

Before, the statute of limitations for misdemeanor offenses ended when the survivor of child sexual abuse reached the age of 20.

Now, the CVA increases the statute of limitations for misdemeanor offenses by five (5) years. This means survivors can press charges until they are 25 years old.

Legal Editors: Thomas P. Giuffra and Martin Weisfuse, February 2019

Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service with the help and assistance of volunteer legal editors, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or to substitute for the advice of a lawyer.

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