WHAT IS THE CHILD VICTIMS ACT?

The Child Victims Act is a law that passed nearly unanimously in the New York State legislature which extends the criminal and civil statutes of limitations for child sexual abuse, and opened a one-year retroactive window during which civil cases whose statutes of limitation have already expired can be brought in court.


what is a statute of limitations?

A statute of limitations is a law which sets the maximum time in which parties involved have to initiate legal proceedings from the date of an alleged offense, whether civil or criminal.


Before the child victims act passed, what was the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse in New York State?

Before the Child Victims Act passed, survivors of child sexual abuse, generally speaking, had until the age of 23 to either press charges against their abusers, or file a civil lawsuit against their abusers and any individuals or institutions that enabled or covered up the abuse.

That means that under the old laws, generally speaking, once a survivor of child sexual abuse turned 23 years old they could no longer seek justice against their abusers or any individuals or institutions that enabled or covered it up.


how did the child victims act change those laws?

The Child Victims Act had three main provisions:

  • It extended the criminal statute of limitations to age 25 for misdemeanors and age 28 for felonies.

  • It extended the civil statute of limitations to age 55

  • It opened a one-year window, starting August 14th 2019 and ending August 13th 2020, during which any old cases whose statutes of limitations had already expired are revived and can be brought again in civil court.


What is the difference between a criminal case and a civil case?

A criminal case is a case brought by the state against someone who committed a crime. The accused is held accountable by the state, and if found guilty can face jail time or other denials of their liberties. Because the penalties involve denials of liberties, the burden of proof is very high—beyond a reasonable doubt.

A civil case is where the perpetrator or any other responsible parties are held responsible directly by the victim, and must make reparation directly to the victim. If found guilty in a civil trial, a defendant would have to pay the victim for the damage caused, and can also be subject to other non-monetary conditions. Because the penalties are monetary and don’t involve the denial of any liberties, the burden of proof is lower than in criminal cases—to a preponderance of the evidence.


what does that mean for me as a survivor?

Before we answer that question, we just want to make sure you understand that if you’re considering pursuing either a criminal or civil case against your abuser, you should always consult a lawyer about your legal options. While we will try to give answers as thoroughly as possible, each case is different, and a lawyer can better personalize their advice to your specific situation.

That said, generally speaking, here’s how the Child Victims Act practically applies to you:

  • If you were abused after February 14th 2019, you have until the age of 28 to file criminal charges against your abuser.

  • If you were abused before February 14th 2019, you have until the age of 23 to file criminal charges against your abuser.

  • If you were abused before February 14th 2019 but were under the age of 23 on that date, please consult a lawyer to figure out what your precise options are for filing criminal charges against your abuser.

  • Please note: There are exceptions to these conditions, and a lawyer should always be consulted about specific cases.

  • If you were age 23 or older on February 14th 2019, you have one year starting August 14th 2019 and ending August 13th 2020 to file a civil claim against your abuser or any individual or institution that enabled or covered up the abuse.

  • If you were between the ages of 21 and 23 on February 14th 2019 you will have until age 55 to file a lawsuit against your abuser, but any lawsuit against an institution would have to be filed during the one-year window from August 14th 2019 to August 13th 2020.

  • If you were under the age of 21 on February 14th 2019 you will have until age 55 to file a civil lawsuit against your abuser and any individuals or institutions that enabled or covered up the abuse.


are there any forms of child sexual abuse for which there is no statute of limitations?

Yes, there are exceptions to the rule. There are a number of top-level felonies for which there is no statute of limitations. That’s why it’s crucial that you always consult a lawyer to get specific advice regarding your legal options in your specific case.


how can I find a lawyer to advise me on my rights under the child victims act?

If you contact us we can put you in touch with an attorney who can best advise you.


why was the child victims act necessary?

On average, it takes survivors of child sexual abuse until the age of 55 to disclose their abuse. The majority of survivors will never disclose or report their abuse. Under the previous laws in New York State, survivors were being denied justice because the law cut off their access to justice at age 23, over 30 years before they’d, on average, be ready to report.