Cuomo orders widened window for sex abuse prosecutions in New York City, citing coronavirus
CNA Staff, May 12, 2020 / 1:01 p.m.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order to extend the legal deadline for victims of childhood sexual abuse to file civil claims by five months, due to legal delays caused by the epidemic coronavirus.
Victims of sexual abuse can now file their statement by January 14, 2021 instead of August 13 of this year. Cuomo said on May 8 that the extension was necessary “because people need access to the courts to assert their rights, because justice delayed too long is justice denied,” reports the New York Daily News.
On March 22, non-essential court records were frozen as part of New York’s efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The court system is preparing to allow further filings under the state’s Child Victims Act.
Before the epidemic, some lawmakers had pleaded for an extension of the legal window.
“Coming up as a child sexual abuse survivor takes courage, focus and a lot of time,” said Senator Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat who sponsored the Child Victims Act. “As the unemployment rate exceeds 14%, it is unreasonable to expect survivors of child sexual abuse to do the emotional and legal work necessary to prosecute (Child Victims Act) while while simultaneously struggling to pay the rent and put food on the table. “
The window, which began in August 2019, allows for a one-year period for prosecution in cases of suspected child sexual abuse where the statute of limitations has already expired.
On May 4, the Diocese of Buffalo asked a federal court to end all pending clergy sexual abuse litigation as it navigated bankruptcy proceedings. The diocese, which filed for bankruptcy in February, has been named in more than 250 court-ordered sexual abuse trials.
In addition to providing a legal window, the Child Victims Act has also adjusted the statute of limitations for criminal prosecutions and civil suits against sexual abusers or institutions. Previously, a child sexual abuse survivor had until the age of 23 to file charges or a civil action. Now, with the passage of the law, survivors have up to 28 years to lay criminal charges and 55 years to file a lawsuit.