Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Child Victims Act into New York law Thursday morning, ending a decades-long quest for survivors and advocates in the state who have long sought the bill’s passage.
The legislation ensures those who abuse children are held accountable criminally and civilly and that survivors of childhood sexual abuse have a path to justice.
“We are here today because survivors who endured unimaginable pain came forward with great courage and sacrificed their own privacy to make change for others,” Cuomo said. “This bill brings justice to people who were abused, and rights the wrongs that went unacknowledged and unpunished for too long. By signing this bill, we are saying nobody is above the law, that the cloak of authority is not impenetrable, and that if you violate the law, we will find out and you will be punished and justice will be done.”
The legislation will raise the criminal statute of limitations for child sex abuse crimes by five years and raise the civil statute of limitations for causes of action brought by someone seeking redress for physical, psychological or other injury caused by child sexual abuse to age 55. Additionally, the legislation will create a one-year window, starting six months from the effective date of the bill, for past victims of child sexual abuse to initiate lawsuits against their abusers and the public and private institutions that let the abuse happen.
The bill will eliminate onerous “notice of claim” requirements that create hurdles for victims to sue public institutions that negligently allowed the abuse to occur, during the revival window and going forward.
Cuomo blamed Senate Republicans for blocking the legislation for the last 13 years.
“This is society’s way of saying we are sorry,” he said. “We are sorry for what happened to you. We are sorry it took so long for us to recognize what happened to you.”
Several activist groups and survivors joined Cuomo in Manhattan where he signed the bill including Ridgewood activist and survivor Connie Altamirano, a 45-year-old single mother of two who suffers from PTSD.
“This victory, while significant for survivors and future generations of children, is only the beginning for New York,” Altamirano said. “We need more broad protections for kids, including removing the statute of limitations completely, and setting up mandatory programs for education and prevention. This battle is far from over,”
Former Queens Assemblywoman Margaret Markey was on hand 13 years after she first introduced the bill and Cuomo said she would go down in history “as a profile in courage” for staying the course despite intense pushback from the Catholic church who opposed the bill for years.
“It’s tough to take on your church,” Cuomo said.
Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal, who carried the bill in the lower chamber, thanked Markey for her leadership and the victims and advocates for allowing her to be a “foot soldier” in their fight. .
“Today, after 13 long and hard years of fighting, we open a pathway to justice, and perhaps some modicum of healing, for survivors of childhood sexual assault,” she said. “I don’t know that there is anything more important that I could have done with my life so far.”