A new law in New York State gives sexual assault survivors a one-year window to bring claims against abusers, setting aside the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits.
Advocates praised the Adult Survivors Act (ASA), which was signed into law Tuesday by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat. It mirrors the 2019 Child Victims Act that expanded the statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases to give survivors more time to sue their abusers.
The law applies to survivors of sexual offenses that occurred when they were over the age of 18, with the one-year window beginning six months from the bill signing and allowing claims regardless of the statute of limitations.
“To those who thought they got away with horrific crimes they committed, I just have one message: Your time is up. Your victims will see you in court and you will be brought to justice,” Hochul told reporters Tuesday.
Lawmakers and advocates said that, like the child victim’s legislation, the new law is intended to help survivors who have kept sexual abuse secret for years beyond the statute of limitations out of shame and fear.
“It’s not possible to show up fully in the world when you are hiding your truth to make space for your abuser’s lie, so this is a watershed moment,” Drew Dixon, a sexual abuse survivor and advocate, said in a statement, referring to the new law.
“The ASA will empower survivors to have their stories heard, scrutinized, and at long last, acknowledged.”
In 2019, the state extended the statute of limitations for adults filing civil claims for certain sex crimes to 20 years but the legislation only applied to new cases.
“For many survivors it takes years to come to terms with the abuses committed against them, let alone to summon the courage to come forward to report the abuse, to confront a boss or a trusted co-worker or family member in a protracted court fight,” said New York State Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Democrat and sponsor of the bill.
The Child Victims Act’s lookback window was later expanded to two years due to the pandemic – allowing victims of child sexual abuse to file a civil lawsuit against a person or institution, no matter how much time had passed since the abuse. The law also expanded the statute of limitations for potential child sexual abuse cases going forward.
Previously, child sex abuse cases in New York could not be prosecuted more than five years after the crime occurred, and civil lawsuits had to be brought within three years after the victim’s 18th birthday.
The lookback window opened in August 2019 and closed in August 2021. More than 10,600 child sexual abuse lawsuits were filed in New York during that period, New York Courts spokesman Lucian Chalfen said in January.