Adults Who Were Sexually Abused As Children Will Soon Be Allowed To Sue Their Sexual Predators (and those who harbored them), No Matter How Long Ago It Happened In New York!

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On January 28 of this Year New York’s legislative bodies put the final touches on the “Child Victims Act”.  It’s almost law. All that is needed now is Governor Cuomo’s signature, which is sure to come soon.

The new law will extend the statute of limitations for adults who were sexually abused as children from the current 23-years-of-age limit to the victim’s 55th birthday.   And for one year, anyone of any age – even if they are over 55 – will be able to sue.  The law also extends (though not as dramatically) the statute of limitations for bringing criminal charges against the abusers.

This is HUGE.  The new law will extend the statute of limitations for suing both the predators and the institutions or others who, through negligence or callousness, facilitated the sexual abuse.

This is welcome news for New York personal injuries lawyers like me, who for years have had to tell adult victims of childhood sexual abuse (those who finally screwed up the courage to come see us about suing) these two ugly words:  “Too late”.  Most childhood sexual assault victims – for psychological reasons I won’t go into here — do not start looking for legal remedies until many years after they become adults. Until this new law, that was always too late.

And if this is good news for New York injury lawyers like me, think about how awesome it is for the victims themselves!  For years they have had to live with the shame, the pain, the psychological scars of childhood sexual abuse all while knowing that their predator was happily living out his days with impunity.

New York’s Catholic Church representatives must be trembling in their cassocks.  For years they have hidden behind those short statutes of limitations to escape justice. They have yet to pay the price for having shuffled sexual predators from one parish to another, from one set of victims to another.  But now the Church itself will be shuffled from one courthouse to another to account for its wrongdoing.

And while the Catholic Church may be the most notorious abuser, it certainly is not the only one with reason to fear the onslaught of lawsuits:  Private and public schools (especially boarding schools), Orthodox Jewish communities, and even the Boy Scouts have had their sexual abuse problems.

Yes the law is good, but keep in mind that a civil lawsuit is about monetary compensation.  And money won’t make the trauma disappear. Nevertheless, exposing the predators in court, and making them pay some kind of price, should provide the victims with both a small measure of economic fairness and a large measure of justice.

Victims beware, though, as there is an inherent injustice embedded in our civil justice system.  Namely, you can’t get water from a rock.  If a victim was sexually abused by someone who has no assets worth pursuing, it will be very difficult to find a New York personal injury lawyer who will take the case on.  Few lawyers will want to spend years pursuing and litigating against a defendant with empty pockets.

Also, some of the institutions who harbored the pedophiles may end up in bankruptcy as the floodgates of litigation open.  Victims are thus well advised to act NOW so that they can get at whatever money the institutions have before other victims run the well dry. And if the victim is over 55, he or she MUST act now:  The one-time, one-year grace period for suing will start to run soon.

In my view, one of the best consequences of the new law is a likely drastic reduction in childhood sexual abuse in New York.  Would-be sexual perpetrators will now know that they can no longer rely on their childhood victims to stay silent past their 23rd year. The suing-clock will keep ticking until those “children” are 55, and they have had plenty of time to mature, and realize how badly hurt they were by that early life trauma.

Three cheers to New York’s brave legislature.

Keep safe!

Mike Bersani
Email me at: bersani@michaels-smolak.com I’d love to hear from you!
michaels-smolak.com
Syracuse NY Childhood Sexual Abuse Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.
315-253-3293

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