Justice delayed will no longer be justice denied for survivors of child sexual abuse and molestation in New York.
Gov. Cuomo signed the Child Victims Act into law Thursday — extending the statute of limitations so sexual abuse victims in the state have more time to seek criminal charges or sue their tormentors.
“This bill brings justice to people who were abused, and rights the wrongs that went unacknowledged and unpunished for too long,” Cuomo said. “By signing this bill, we are saying nobody is above the law, that the cloak of authority is not impenetrable, and that if you violate the law, we will find out and you will be punished and justice will be done.”
The new law erases what was one of the nation’s most restrictive statutes of limitations when it comes to molestation.
Victims now have until age 55 to file civil lawsuits and seek criminal charges until age 28, as opposed to 23 under the old statute.
The law will allow some alleged victims to bring their abusers to court to seek damages and it includes a one-year “look-back window” that will allow others who weren’t able to sue in the past to file fresh claims.
The measure faced stiff opposition from Republicans, who controlled the state Senate for more than a decade, and the Catholic church, which argued it would financial harm to any organization that cares for children.
Survivors cheered last month as the bill finally came to a vote after Democrats took control of the Senate — and broke down in tears Tuesday as it became law.
“Today means that things in New York are a little more right than wrong,” said sex abuse survivor Kathryn Robb. “And children will be safer and that victims have a right to justice.”
After suffering sexual abuse as a child at the hands of her older brother, Robb became a lawyer and victim advocate — and spent years pushing Albany lawmakers to pass the bill.
The governor signed the legislation, over a decade in the making, in the lower Manhattan newsroom of the Daily News, applauding the newspaper work in exposing the injustice survivors faced and its editorials championing the legislation’s passage.
Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, the main sponsors of the bill, joined dozens of advocates, survivors and fellow lawmakers in cheering on Cuomo as he enshrined the new statutes.
“It lifts part of the burden, that’s what have heard from people, it lifts part of the burden they feel they’ve been shouldering themselves,” Rosenthal said. “It also provides them now with a difficult choice of whether to go to court or not, but I know people who have suffered in silence will be emboldened by this and by understanding that the stigma is broken.”
Sarah Klein, a survivor who was abused by former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, said her own path to understanding and accepting her abuse took years and she’s happy that others will be able to hold their abusers accountable under the new law.
“The fact that New York set the gold standard today, as a survivor, is really moving and I think of all the survivors sitting at home right now and their life just got a little bit easier and we stand with our brothers and sisters of New York,” she said.
Gary Greenberg, a child sexual abuse survivor who formed Protect NY Kids to lobby for passage of the Child Victims Act also applauded the signing — and had a message for predators preying on the young.