For over a decade, child sexual abuse survivors, survivor advocates, and supporters like our law firm, have been battling against powerful institutions like the Catholic Church and elements within the Hassidic Jewish Community and others to amend New York’s archaic child abuse statute of limitations. That persistence of survivors and their advocates has finally defeated the Goliath detractors who have helped to block state legislation year after year that would allow older victims of child sexual abuse access to civil justice. On January 28th, 2019, the New York State legislature almost unanimously approved A 2683, The Child Victims Act, and sent it on to Governor Cuomo for signature.
Under the new law, victims of childhood sexual abuse can now file civil lawsuits until the age of 55. There is also a one-year “look-back window” in the new law that gives victims with old claims that had already passed the statute of limitations, the right to sue during that one year period. In addition, the new law now allows prosecutors to bring criminal charges until a victim turns 28.
This access to civil justice is long overdue in New York. As early as May 2009, I wrote an article for Huffington Post titled “States Need to Stop Telling Child Victims They’re SOL” about the brave efforts of New York Assemblywoman Margaret Markey’s efforts to pass the “Child Victims Act” at that time. This was at a time when our law firm was one of the lead firms involved in resolving nearly 1,000 cases against the California Catholic Dioceses for over one billion dollars, as the result of legislation that was passed in California in 2003, a law similar to this new, New York law, that allowed for a one-year window for older victims to be able to file civil lawsuits for monetary damages as a result of the abuse they suffered as children.
The Zalkin Law Firm has been representing child sexual abuse victims in New York for almost a decade, despite the obstacles to civil justice presented by the just changed New York statute of limitations. Finally, ten years after we began representing victims in the state, there is now a pathway to justice for our clients who were victims of childhood sexual abuse in New York, a pathway that has long been open to our clients in California and other states.
The one year "lookback window" in the new Child Victims Act means that victims who seek justice and compensation through the courts need to act quickly to secure experienced legal representation. Our firm has been contacted by many victims and we are already moving ahead with their cases. We encourage anyone who was a victim of abuse to contact us as soon as possible so that we can evaluate your case and get started on this pathway to justice
The scourge of child sexual abuse is not limited to the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, we have been called upon to help victims within the Jewish, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Orthodox Greek Church communities. The sexual abuse of children knows few boundaries and is a national problem within our schools, youth sports organizations, Boy Scouts, Big Brothers and Sisters, and other youth-serving organizations.
As we have learned from our past experiences in California and other states when restrictive statutes of limitations are removed or amended, and the financial burden shifts to where it belongs, on the backs of the institutions responsible for harboring and protecting pedophiles, change happens. The New York Child Victim’s Act will undoubtedly help protect today’s children from institutional predators, and offer justice and hope to those who have been denied for so long.