Child sexual abuse has devastating effects on the victim, their loved ones, and our whole community. The statistics of child sexual abuse are frightening. Listed below are just a few:
• 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are victims of sexual abuse by the time they reach 18 years old.
• Children between the ages of 8-12 years old are most likely to be targeted by abusers.
• 90% of pedophiles know their victims.
Sexual acts of molestation or violence of children is an abuse of authority, trust and power, explicit or implicit. It can happen in religious institutions, in public and private schools, in hospitals and doctors offices during the course of medical treatment, in youth organizations and to aspiring athletes by their coaches or trainers at all levels of sport.
This type of sexual abuse is imposed on a child who lacks the emotional capability to fully understand or resist their abuser and has devastating and lasting impacts on their physical and mental health and well being.
It is common knowledge that, in many instances, children don’t speak up about their sexual abuse out of fear, shame, confusion or other reasons. Oftentimes, children have been threatened by, are scared of, or intimidated by their abuser. They lack the words to describe their sexual abuse and they don’t understand that what has happened to them is a crime.
For many child abuse victims, it takes years – even decades – to develop the emotional strength to accuse their abuser. In fact, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health, between 60–80% of child sexual abuse victims withhold disclosure until adulthood. In fact, research shows that most child sexual abuse survivors do not disclose the abuse until their 40s.
Although these acts often occur in secret and behind closed doors, they have both private and public consequences. Victims, their families, and even the public, can pay a high price for decades after the violence ends. Studies have shown that victims of child sexual abuse may have higher rates of academic problems, loss of interest and productivity, teen pregnancy, delinquency and crime problems, drug and alcohol addiction issues, a higher use of mental health and health care services, causing self harm and suicide.
New York State recently took an important first step in helping to end the silence and inaction surrounding this very troubling topic and begin a cultural shift towards healing and justice for so many victims.
On February 14, 2019, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed The Child Victims Act into law. This Act will allow thousands of New Yorkers who were abused as children to be able to seek justice and have access to the courts to do so. This law changes the statute of limitations for both criminal and civil child sexual abuse cases in New York State. Under the old law, child sexual abuse offenses could not be prosecuted more than five years after their occurrence and civil lawsuits for this conduct had to be brought within three years of the victim’s 18th birthday.
The New Law:
• Increases the amount of time during which perpetrators of these crimes may be held criminally accountable;
• Allows victims of these crimes to commence a civil lawsuit at any time before they reach 55 years of age;
• Provides victims whose claims have been time-barred a new opportunity for their day in court by opening a one-year window for them to commence their action, regardless of when the abuse occurred;
• Treats private and public entities the same and eliminates the requirement to file a notice of claim within 90 days against a public entity to sue for sexual offenses committed against a minor.
• Requires judicial training with respect to crimes involving the sexual abuse of minors;
• Authorizes the Office of Court Administration to promulgate rules and regulations for the timely adjudication of revived actions.
The revival period for otherwise time-barred claims commences six months after the law was signed on February 14, 2019 and lasts for one year. So it opens on August 14, 2019. (EDIT May 13, 2020: Due to the global pandemic of COVID-19, the deadline has been extended to January 2021.)
The one-year look back window is critical to protecting child victims of sexual abuse. This look back window has been referred to as “a window of justice” by Professor Marci Ann Hamilton, the founder and CEO of CHILD USA, a think tank to prevent child abuse and neglect. The window allows victims to file suit in instances in which the statute of limitations has lapsed. Under prior law, victims were time barred in bringing a claim against their abusers unless it was done before their 23rd birthday and against an institution by their 21st birthday. As such, most victims did not bring claims within the statute of limitations period and, as a result, these survivors had no measure of justice available to them.
Now with the passage of The Child Victims Act in New York State, child abuse victims have the opportunity to hold accountable the abusers and the institutions that enabled the predators. It is believed that The Child Victims Act will also help expose child sexual predators not previously identified who are likely still abusing innocent children.
At Brindisi, Murad & Brindisi Pearlman our priority is putting the victim first. Our focus will always be on providing high quality advocacy on behalf of our clients with genuine caring and sensitivity to the victim’s experience and their day-to-day struggle to process the abuse they suffered. We will work hard to communicate all legal and human elements of our clients’ claims and experiences and to hold institutions accountable so we can obtain justice for our clients. Contact Brindisi, Murad & Brindisi Pearlman for a free consultation today. Let us fight for you. Call us today.
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