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Thursday, 07 February 2019 13:03

The Child Victims Act

By Pam Nichols and Scott Iseman | Families Today

The New York State Legislature has just passed a new law, the Child Victims Act (CVA) that will allow countless New Yorkers who were sexually abused as children to sue their abusers for the physical and emotional harm they endured. The new law also allows victims to sue other people, professionals, companies or municipalities that had a duty to protect victims from harm, but failed to do so. Governor Cuomo is expected to sign the CVA into law in the near future and may have signed it by the time this article is published. If enacted, the CVA gives child victims of sexual abuse new rights and eliminates barriers that previously prevented victims from bringing claims. Below we answer the common questions we receive from victims and their families who want to know what their rights are under the CVA. 

What new rights does the CVA create?
The CVA allows adults who were sexually abused as children (less than 18 years old) additional time to bring a claim that is time-barred under current law. The law temporarily revives the period of time (commonly referred to as the statute of limitations) and gives victims one year to bring claims based on sexual abuse they suffered as children. 

The CVA also allows sexually abused victims, who are children when the law is enacted, an extended period of time to bring a claim. These child victims generally will have until they turn 55 years old to bring a civil law suit.

Does the law change how school districts, municipalities and other governmental entities are treated when they may be responsible?
Yes. Importantly, the law recognizes that abusers are not the only ones responsible. Schools, religious institutions, doctors, and other organizations including state and municipal entities, that knew about the abuse, covered it up or violated a duty to act or a duty of care to the child victim, may also be sued because of the extension of time provided by the CVA. 

Does the CVA change the rights of those who were sexually assaulted as adults?
No. The CVA only applies to adults who were sexually abused as children.  Those adults have the one year opportunity to bring their claim as described above.  The CVA does not change the law for adults who have suffered sexual abuse as adults.  These adults still have valid claims that can be brought in a lawsuit but the time period to bring that claim is not changed by the CVA. 

What can I expect if I bring a civil lawsuit for the abuse I suffered? 
In a civil case, victims can bring a lawsuit seeking money damages for the physical and emotional harm they endured. The victim needs to prove that it was more likely than not that the abuser and/or other responsible parties (i.e. a school district, a church, a doctor, etc.) breached a duty of care to the child and are therefore responsible for the harm the child suffered. However, victims cannot have their abuser put into jail through a civil suit. That can only happen through a criminal prosecution brought by the State of New York. 

If I or someone I care about was sexually abused as a child what can I do to protect my/their rights?
Victims of child sexual abuse and their friends and families should immediately consult with experienced counsel to receive advice on their particular circumstance. Each case is different and requires an individual assessment. Victims of child sexual abuse can also contact law enforcement to see whether their case can now be investigated and prosecuted as a crime. 

Pam, Scott and their partners represent victims whose lives have been forever changed by the intentional and negligent conduct of others. They have represented many injured children and have obtained verdicts and settlements for victims of sexual abuse against their abusers and other professionals who failed to protect the victims.  Pam and Scott have advocated for this long overdue change to the current law.  Pam and Scott can be reached at 518-462-5601 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

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