Child Victims Act finally signed into law

Governor Andrew Cuomo signs the Child Victims Act in the newsroom of the Daily News. The daily paper was a major advocate of the bill. (Photos courtesy Governor’s Office)

BY ROSE ADAMS | After 13 years of inertia, the New York State Legislature passed the Child Victims Act on Feb. 14, which will extend the statute of limitations for child victims of sexual assault to demand legal recourse.

“For years, survivors of child sexual abuse looked to Albany for justice and for years, their pleas went unanswered. No longer,” said state Senator Brad Hoylman, who sponsored the bill.

The law will allow victims to bring criminal charges against their alleged abusers until the victims turn age 28, and file civil lawsuits until they turn 55. Until now, victims could only file criminal or civil complaints until age 23.

The law will also mandate a one-year “look-back” window, during which victims who were barred from suing under the previous statute of limitations can sue their abusers.

The legislation was first introduced in the state Assembly in 2006 by Margaret Markey, a Queens assemblymember who fought for the bill until she lost her seat in 2016. Markey’s fervor for the cause grew out of personal experience: Her adult son had told her that their local Catholic priest had abused him as a child.

The bill passed seven times in the Assembly, but opponents in the state Senate made sure to quietly stifle its progress. The Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America, along with a smattering of insurance companies and Orthodox Jewish groups, objected to the bill’s one-year “look-back” window, arguing that the ability to revive old civil suits could drive institutions into bankruptcy.

Governor Andrew Cuomo after signing the Child Victims Act into law in the newsroom of the Daily News. Flanking him are the bill’s two sponsors, Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal and state Senator Brad Hoylman.

But the fight raged on. After Markey left the Assembly, Hoylman — whose district stretches from the Upper West Side to the West Village and East Village — became one of the bill’s main proponents. This January, Governor Andrew Cuomo declared the Child Victims Act a key part of his 2019 agenda, and on Jan. 28, the state Senate passed the bill unanimously.

“I’m so proud to be in this fight alongside Governor Cuomo, who took the courageous and historic step in supporting this bill,” Hoylman said at the bill’s signing on Feb. 14. “Today, in passing the Child Victims Act, we are finally telling survivors: The State of New York and the full force of its law is behind you, and you will not be turned away.”