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Child Victims Act gets one-year extension, giving child sex abuse survivors more time to sue

August 4, 2020 Rob Abruzzese

The civil courts were closed for months during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York, so the State Legislature has decided to grant the survivors of child sexual abuse more time to file lawsuits under the Child Victims Act by extending it for another year.

After the Legislature passed the extension with a veto-proof vote, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law on Monday.

“Today, Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders reaffirmed their commitment to justice for decades of heinous abuse committed by the most trusted members of society,” said James Marsh, a New York attorney who represents more than 700 victims statewide. “The Child Victims Act was a turning point for so many who have called for accountability, and today, we have a message for the predators and their enablers: Time is up.”

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The Child Victims Act was signed into law in New York in 2019 and it extended the statute of limitations for survivors of child sexual abuse in criminal and civil cases. It gave victims who were previously time-barred from filing a case a one-year window to commence an action.

“As courts reopen, we stand ready to make survivors’ voices heard and ensure they receive their rightful day in court,” Marsh said. “We’ve seen so many brave survivors stand up and fight back, but this is only the beginning. We thank the governor for signing this bill, and we look forward to his continued support for survivors in the years to come.”

Immediately after the bill became law in February 2019, cases were filed against the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America and Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn (involving several former teachers, including a former tennis coach).

The law was set to expire on Aug. 14, 2020, but will now continue until Aug. 14, 2021. Advocates have been pushing for the extension since the courts closed in March.

“The Child Victims Act brought a long-needed pathway to justice for people who were abused, and helps right wrongs that went unacknowledged and unpunished for far too long, and we cannot let this pandemic limit the ability for survivors to have their day in court,” Cuomo said. “As New York continues to reopen and recover from a public health crisis, extending the look back window is the right thing to do and will help ensure that abusers and those who enabled them are held accountable.”

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