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- New Statute Of Limitations Empowers Sexual Abuse Survivors
- What Is The "Window Of Justice"?
- What Is The New Statute Of Limitations?
- New York Criminal Laws On Sexual Assault & Abuse
- Assault & Abuse Resources In New York State
Thanks to recent changes in New York state law, thousands of sexual abuse survivors have been granted a second chance at pursuing justice. A new statute of limitations provides additional time to file suit, while a one-year "window of justice" allows survivors with historical claims of abuse to step forward.
New Statute Of Limitations Empowers Sexual Abuse Survivors
New York lawmakers have approved historic changes to state law, providing sexual abuse survivors more time in which to file civil lawsuits and press criminal charges.
In a resounding victory for advocates, and a strong defeat for Catholic bishops, who have long opposed changes to New York's statute of limitations, New York State's legislature has approved a raft of changes to the statute of limitations, a law that restricts the amount of time survivors have to file suit. This is momentous news for sexual abuse survivors.
How Sex Abuse Survivors Benefit
Were you or a loved one sexually abused? Are you a survivor of childhood sexual abuse? Was your path to justice blocked by New York's former statute of limitations? Did the abuse you suffered take place decades ago? Were the perpetrators never brought to justice? Things are about to change. Thanks to new changes in New York law, you and thousands of other sexual abuse survivors have been empowered to pursue justice now, even for cases of sexual abuse that occurred decades ago.
Your path to justice starts here. Are you a survivor of sexual abuse? Were you abused by a Catholic priest, or a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses? Did you suffer sexual abuse at the hands of a deacon, or layperson? Our experienced sexual abuse attorneys are here to help. We have the resources and experience necessary to pursue your case with confidence.
Step forward and make your voice heard. You can stand up and demand justice. You are not alone. Our dedicated legal team is here to support you in your choice. It's not too late to hold the responsible parties accountable. You have a voice, and a powerful story that deserves to be told. We believe you, and we believe your story is vital and important.
How Is The Statute Of Limitations Being Changed?
Thanks to these changes, sexual abuse survivors now have until their 55th birthday to file a civil lawsuit over the abuse. You have until your 28th birthday to press criminal charges against the sex offender.
These changes make it possible to pursue justice long after the sexual abuse has occurred, unlike previous years in which many sexual abuse survivors were unable to file their claims due to the statute of limitations. The change was made possible by amending New York's Child Victims Act. Despite their historical opposition to such changes, Republicans this time voted in resounding support of the amendments to the statute of limitations. All Republican Senators voted in favor of the bill, which grants sexual abuse survivors until their 55th birthday to file a lawsuit.
What Is The Window Of Justice?
But the new version of the Child Victims Act goes even further. In addition to lengthening the statute of limitations, a new provision of the law is set to open a "window of justice" for sexual abuse survivors who were previously barred from filing suit. This "window," beginning on the date of the bill's passage, will suspend the statute of limitations for one year, allowing survivors who could not previously pursue their claims additional time to file suit. Once the "window of justice" is opened, anyone with a viable legal claim over childhood sexual abuse will be allowed one year to file a lawsuit over the abuse, regardless of how long ago it occurred. In practice, survivors of childhood sexual abuse committed in the 1940s, nearly 80 years ago, will now be eligible to file lawsuits against the Catholic Church, or any other organization that enabled the abuse through negligence or wrongdoing.
What Is The Statute Of Limitations?
The statute of limitations is a law, passed by New York's state legislature, that restricts the amount of time accident and crime survivors have to file lawsuits over their injuries. There are separate statutes of limitations for cases of personal injury, medical malpractice, breach of contract and many other causes of legal action, but the one we'll be focusing on is the statute of limitations for cases of childhood sexual abuse.
Prior to recent changes in state law, New York's statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse cases allowed survivors until their 23rd birthday to file a civil suit against the offender or any negligent third parties (such as a Catholic diocese). Considering the deep psychological trauma of being abused, a mere five years after one's 18th birthday isn't a long time. As a result, many sex offenders went completely unpunished in New York.
New York used to have one of the most restrictive statutes of limitations in the country. Advocates have been fighting to change the law for years, but faced stiff opposition from the Republican-controlled State Senate. Now, the tables have turned. After the midterm elections, a wave of Democrats swept in to take control of New York's state legislature.
High-Profile Scandals Lead To Change
Reforms to the statute of limitations came soon after, following in the wake of high-profile sexual abuse scandals, including the decades of sexual abuse committed by Larry Nassar, a gymnastics doctor for USA Gymnastics. The ongoing crisis within the Catholic Church, in which thousands of Catholic priests (alive and deceased) have been accused of sexual abuse in new reports, only increased support for the change.
Catholic Church On The Back Foot
The new changes to the statute of limitations are sure to bring wide-ranging implications for sexual abuse survivors throughout New York. Now, sexual abuse survivors who had long been prohibited from pursuing justice will be allowed to file suit and, going forward, survivors will have until their 55th birthday to pursue a civil lawsuit against responsible parties.
No institution will feel the ramifications of this legal change more than the Catholic Church, an organization that has concealed sexual abuse allegations for decades and is now struggling to handle a renewed wave reports. There is little doubt that, with a window of justice opening in New York, hundreds, if not thousands, of new civil lawsuits will be filed against the Catholic Church. You may be among these new plaintiffs.
Statute Of Limitations Could Bring Wave Of Litigation
The experience in California is illustrative on this point. When California lawmakers passed a similar "window of justice" law in 2002, the subsequent wave of litigation resulted in $1.4 billion in successful sexual abuse lawsuits against Catholic dioceses.
Other religious organizations are also certain to feel the sting of this new law, in particular, the Jehovah's Witnesses, which are headquartered in New York. The Jehovah's Witnesses have long fielded allegations of concealing sexual abuse from secular authorities. Now, historical claims of sexual abuse can be litigated in open court throughout the State.
Free Legal Consultations
Were you or a loved one sexually abused as a child in New York? Did you suffer abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest, Jehovah's Witnesses congregation member or other adult associated with an institution? Now is the time to pursue your claim. You may be eligible to file a civil lawsuit for financial compensation, and thanks to New York's window of justice, your lawsuit cannot be barred by the statute of limitations for a full year.
Are you under the age of 55? Were you sexually abused in your youth? Under new York's new statute of limitations, you still have more time to file a civil lawsuit and pursue financial compensation. You can learn more about your legal options in a free consultation today.
Find more information about your rights at no charge and no obligation. Just contact our experienced sexual abuse attorneys now for a free legal consultation. We can walk you through the legal process with confidence. Trust us to handle your claim.
Criminal Laws On Sexual Abuse & Assault In New York
Throughout the US, sex crime laws change from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, varying according to how state legislatures have decided to handle the issue. In New York State, the legislature has divided sexual assault and sexual abuse laws in 12 distinct categories.
If you or a loved one are a survivor of sexual assault or sexual abuse, it's important to understand your rights under New York law. As a survivor of a sex crime, you have the right to press criminal charges against the offender, pursuing justice against the person who harmed you. Understanding New York's complex criminal laws can help.
You may also have the right to file a private civil lawsuit for financial compensation. This is a lawsuit distinct from the criminal justice system, one filed on your own terms with only your own best interests at heart. Looking for support and guidance? Our experienced New York sexual assault lawyers are here for you. Explore your legal options today in a free, confidential legal consultation. We are here to protect your rights.
Assault & Abuse Resources In New York State
If your or a loved one are the victim of a sex crime, please understand that you are not alone. Community resources exist to help you. You can find support and assistance from a number of local resource groups designed to help sexual abuse and assault survivors:
- Safe Horizon - Operated by the City of New York, Safe Horizon offers information, safety planning, counseling, emergency housing, transportation assistance and referrals for additional support to victims of sexual assault. Help is available for filing applications to the New York State Crime Victims Board compensation program.
- Local resources for sexual assault survivors and child sexual abuse survivors
- Sexual assault hotline: 866-577-2786
In addition to these resources, our dedicated team of New York sexual assault and abuse attorneys are here to provide you with experienced representation in filing a civil lawsuit against both the offender and negligent third parties who may have enabled the misconduct.
Sexual Abuse & Assault Laws In New York
New York's legislature has defined 12 different forms of sexual abuse and assault offenses, with varying degrees of seriousness and varying levels of punishment.
Aggravated Sexual Abuse
Under New York State law, aggravated sexual abuse comprises any sexual act in which the defendant inserts a finger or foreign object into the genitals or anus of another person without first obtaining their consent. Aggravated sexual abuse is further divided into four degrees of severity, but each is considered a felony.
The charge of aggravated sexual abuse reaches a higher degree for cases in which physical force is used against the victim, along with cases in which the victim was unable to consent due to a physical or mental disability and when the victim is under the age of 11.
Course Of Sexual Conduct Against A Child
The charge of course of sexual conduct against a child is meant to criminalize the repeated sexual abuse of a child. It applies in cases when a defendant sexually abuses a minor on multiple occasions, and can be charged as either first- or second-degree, depending on the severity of the misconduct. Cases involving either sexual intercourse (including anal or oral sex) or aggravated sexual contact are generally charged as first-degree crimes.
Criminal Sexual Act
A criminal sexual act, in the language of New York State law, is any occurrence of nonconsensual anal or oral sex. Criminal sexual act can be charged as either a first, second or third-degree offense, but each is deemed a felony.
- First Degree Offense - Criminal sexual acts reach the first degree when the defendant is 18 years or older and the victim is under 13 years old; or when the victim is under the age of 11; or when the victim was unable to consent due to physical helplessness; or when the offender used physical force. The penalty for a first-degree charge of criminal sexual act is 5 to 25 years in prison.
- Second Degree Offense - Criminal sexual act will be charged as a second-degree offense when the victim was unable to consent due to mental or intellectual disability; or when the defendant was over the age of 18 and the victim was under the age of 15. The maximum penalty for a second-degree charge is seven years in prison.
- Third Degree Offense - Criminal sexual act counts as a third-degree offense in cases involving any lack of consent except for an inability to consent; or when the defendant is 21 or older and the victim is under the age of 17. The penalty for third-degree criminal sexual act is a maximum of four years in prison.
Facilitating A Sex Offense With A Controlled Substance
This criminal charge is meant to target cases of "date rape," in which the defendant knowingly gives the victim a drug or other illegal substance with the intent of incapacitating the victim to facilitate a sexual assault or abuse. Facilitating a sex offense with a controlled substance is a Class D felony, and comes with a maximum of seven years in prison.
Female Genital Mutilation
Designated as a Class E Felony in New York, female genital mutilation refers to any situation in which a defendant consents to the circumcision, excision or infibulation of a minor female child's genitals without adequate medical justification. The charge can be filed against parents and legal guardians, and is punishable via up to four years in prison.
A misdemeanor charge in New York that involves the use of physical force to touch another person's genitals or breasts with the intent of harming the victim or gratifying the sexual desires of either the defendant or the victim.
In New York, incest (sexual relationships between biologically-related individuals) is illegal, even if both parties consent to the sexual conduct. First and second-degree charges of the crime are reserved for defendants who commit rape or associated sex crimes against their relative, while third-degree incest applies to cases in which biologically-related individuals engage in consensual sex acts.
Persistent Sexual Abuse
The charge of persistent sexual abuse is reserved for repeat sex offenders. It applies in cases wherein the offender commits either forcible touching or any other second- or third-degree sexual crime and has already been convicted of two or more sexual offenses within the last ten years. Persistent sexual abuse is a Class E Felony in New York.
Predatory Sexual Assault
The charge of predatory sexual assault applies to the most extreme sexual predators. The charge applies to sexual offenders who commit a first-degree count of either rape, criminal sexual acts, aggravated sexual abuse, or course of sexual conduct against a child, and:
- were previously convicted of felony sexual offense, incest or use of a child in a sexual performance; or
- committed their crimes against multiple victims; or
- caused the victim to suffer physical injuries; or
- threatened to harm the victim physically
As New York's most severe sex crime, predatory sexual assault comes with a maximum prison sentence of 25 years.
The charge of rape is used when the offender forces the victim into sexual intercourse without consent, or forces sex on a victim who is unable to consent (such as a minor). In New York, rape can be a first-, second-, or third-degree crime, depending on the circumstances:
- First Degree Offense - applies when the offender is over 18 years old and the victim is under 13 years old; or when the offense is committed against anyone under the age of 11; or when the intercourse was facilitated via physical force; or when the sexual misconduct was committed against a victim who was physically unable to consent
- Second Degree Offense - applies when the victim was incapable of providing consent due to a mental disability; or in cases involving defendants over the age of 18 and a victim under the age of 15
- Third Degree Offense - applies in cases involving a lack of consent for a reason other than the inability to consent; or sexual intercourse between a defendant over the age of 21 and a victim under the age of 17
The charge of sexual abuse applies to cases in which the defendant inflicts on the victim unwanted sexual contact without consent. In statutory cases of the charge, the defendant, an adult, engages in sexual contact with a minor, someone too young to provide consent.
Sexual abuse in New York is divided into three classes of crime, depending on the severity of the misconduct:
- First Degree Offense - applies when the defendant is older than 21 and the victim is under 13 years old; or when the victim is younger than 11; or when the victim is physically helpless; or when the offender uses physical force to commit the crime
- Second Degree Offense - applies when the victim was unable to consent for a reason other than being under the age of 17; or when the victim is under 14 years of age
- Third Degree Offense - applies when the defendant commits sexual contact with the victim without their consent.
New Law Provides More Time To File A Civil Lawsuit
History has been made. On Monday, January 28, 2019, New York's State Assembly and Senate passed the Child Victims Act, a sweeping piece of legislation that strengthens legal protections for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. While the bill has not yet been signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, Cuomo has already provided vocal support for the measures, according to ABC7.
New York Statute Of Limitations Increased
The bill implements three major changes in New York State law, increasing the statute of limitations for both civil and criminal lawsuits against child sex offenders and negligent parties, while also opening a one-year window for historical sexual abuse claims to be filed.
New York's statute of limitations on civil child sex abuse lawsuits, whether filed against a direct offender or a negligent third-party defendant, has now been extended to the victim's 55th birthday. Once enacted, the law provides survivors until their 55th birthday to file a civil lawsuit. As a corollary outcome, anyone currently under the age of 55 who was sexually abused will automatically gain the right to file a civil lawsuit.
The criminal statute of limitations is also increasing, moving from the age of 23 to 28. After the bill's enactment, sexual abuse survivors will have until their 28th birthday to press criminal charges against the offender.
"Window Of Justice"
But the law's biggest impact may come in the form of a "window of justice," a one-year time frame in which survivors who were previously barred from filing suit regain the right to pursue justice. The one-year time period begins on the date of the law's enactment.
Once the window is opened, anyone with a viable sexual abuse lawsuit, no matter how long ago the abuse occurred, will be able to file their claim for compensation in court. Even claims once barred by the statute of limitations will be allowed to proceed in court under the new law.
This is an unprecedented day in the history of sexual abuse law, one that could serve as a blueprint for other states across the nation. If you or a loved one were sexually abused in New York State, the time to pursue justice is now. Even if the abuse occurred decades ago, new laws provide you with the right to file suit at any age, no matter the circumstances of your abuse.