New York's Adult Survivor Act commences in two days November 24, 2022, coinciding with Thanksgiving Day. It is indeed something for which all of us should be thankful that adult survivors of sexual abuse will be afforded a one year look back window to pursue justice in the civil courts for abuse that happened in the past, regardless of when the abuse occurred.
Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the legislation into law on May 24. A similar law, the Child Victims Act, created a one-year window in 2019 for the survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file claims otherwise barred by the existing statute of limitations.
This is a significant law that levels the playing field for adult survivors of sexual abuse. In cases of adult sexual abuse, the perpetrator is often an employee or a powerful person who has/had power or authority over the survivor, affording the perpetrator the opportunity to commit the illegal acts. Such figures as Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein, and Vince McMahon come to mind. These powerful men were able to commit sexual abuse against adults precisely because they had access, power, and the financial wherewithal to make their demands difficult to fight.
A recent New York Times article on how hundreds of women were planning to sue the state over alleged sexual abuses they suffered at the hands of prison guards brought much-needed attention to the new law.
Advocates for the victims and survivors of sexual abuse have launched a campaign to highlight the rapidly approaching one-year lookback window for filing a lawsuit.
The campaign includes a video and a photo campaign in Times Square that will also run on social media platforms.
The lawsuits are enabled under the Adult Survivors Act, a measure approved in Albany earlier this year that allows for sexual abuse survivors to sue their abuser in court, or the entities that may have enabled the abuse to take place. The measure is based on the Child Victims Act, which allowed survivors of childhood abuse to file lawsuits.
"The ASA will allow survivors who have been burdened for so long by their pain to rebuild and heal in a world that finally acknowledges their truth and their trauma," said Drew Dixon, a survivor. "The opening of this lookback window is a parting of the clouds for victims of sex crimes in New York, and I'm so grateful for it."