With this legislative session ending in a few days, advocates for sexual abuse survivors hope lawmakers in Albany will finally pass a measure to extend the time frame in which victims may file lawsuits action against their perpetrators.
Last week, the state Senate passed the Adult Survivors Act (S66) by a vote of 62-0. But the companion bill in the Assembly (A648) has been sitting in the Judiciary Committee since it was referred there earlier this year.
“State senators unanimously voted Thursday to pass the Adult Survivors Act to open a look-back window for survivors of sexual abuse to file litigation against their accusers. Senators voted 62-0 to pass S66, or the Adult Survivors Act, to give people ages 18 and older one year to file civil lawsuits for past sexual abuse and hold abusers accountable, even if statutes of limitations on those legal claims have expired,” according to a story published Thursday by the Watertown Daily Times. “Shame, religious beliefs, family relationships and a person being unable to remove themselves from abusive situations can make it difficult for a person to process or litigate trauma within the state’s time-barred civil lawsuits based on sex crimes. The companion bill in the Assembly, No. A648, has sat in the chamber’s Judiciary Committee since Jan. 6. Representatives with the Assembly majority did not respond to requests for comment Thursday about the Democratic conference’s stance on the Adult Survivors Act or what issues have stalled the measure.”
This legislative session ends Thursday. A bill that had unanimous support in the Senate shouldn’t be this difficult to advance in the Assembly.
In 2019, the state Legislature passed a similar measure for people who were sexually abused as youths. The Child Victims Act gave New Yorkers a year to seek legal action against individuals or organizations for the sexual abuse they endured as children, no matter how long ago the abuse occurred. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an extension to this law last year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
There are many social, emotional and financial obstacles that continue to hinder people’s decision to report sexual abuse and seek justice. It is proper to open the window of opportunity for them to initiate lawsuits.
Lawmakers should consider some of the lingering reasons that people remain reluctant about coming forward with information about sexual abuse. Future legislative measures could address these concerns to ensure those who have been victimized have the resources they need to take action against those who abused them.
But with the Legislature ending its session Thursday, members of the Assembly need to act now to move the Adult Survivors Act out of the Judiciary Committee and schedule it for a full vote.
The silence that many Democrats in the Assembly have exhibited on this issue is deafening.
“The ASA is a common sense, narrowly tailored piece of legislation that will provide adult survivors of sexual assault who were stymied by short statutes of limitations with access to long-denied justice,” said Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan, who sponsored the bill in her chamber, the Times article reported. “Now that the state Senate has passed the bill, the Assembly, the People’s House, must act to continue to support survivors.”
She’s correct on this issue. The Assembly needs to approve this measure and send it to Cuomo’s office for his signature.