New York’s Child Victims Act has already lead to over a thousand lawsits since August.
New York’s Child Victims Act (CVA) took effect on August 14 of this year, and since then, an estimated 1,200 survivors of sexual abuse in the state filed lawsuits against their alleged abusers. At least thirty of those who’ve filed did so in Queens Supreme Court, according to December 2019 data compiled by the Office of Court Administration. The law allows for victims to file lawsuits regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.
The Child Victims Act gives accusers one year to file their previously expired claims and that window of opportunity only applies to civil claims. The CVA, however, also extends New York’s statute of limitations for criminal child sexual abuse cases. This previously had been the shortest timeframe in the nation. Now, prosecutors have until a child sex abuse victim turns 28 to seek a felony indictment – this is five years later than it had been. The statute of limitations for civil cases is until 55 years of age.
Six Queens plaintiffs filed cases against their alleged on the first day of the law and another two dozen people have filed complaints in Queens since, according to records, which also indicate those filed in the state’s Supreme Court in Manhattan totaled 258, and in Brooklyn, 168. In the Bronx, 53 plaintiffs have submitted complaints and seven have filed in Staten Island.
Erie County had 288. This area is home to the Buffalo Diocese, which has the most complaints against it in New York – 210 plaintiffs have named at least 107 Catholic priests from the Buffalo Diocese in their cases.
Jayne Conroy, a trial attorney, said, “The number of cases could just be a function of research and schedules and deadlines as survivors continue to learn about their rights and attorneys conduct research.” She added, “It doesn’t necessarily have any reflection on what the numbers may ultimately look like. We have until August so there’s no reason to rush anything. We’re doing our due diligence.”
Conroy also stated, “It’s very, very difficult for a victim to come forward if they think no one has ever come out and said this person abused me, but then they see in the news that ten people have come forward.”
Many members of the dioceses have stepped forward to give statements and have written letters concerning how the act will impact them. “While our diocesan efforts continue to heal, to restore and to encourage all affected by painful acts committed many years ago, it is not possible to speculate on the overall impact the Child Victims Act will have upon our Diocese,” Rochester Bishop Salvatore Matano wrote.
The state’s court system has appointed 45 judges to hear those cases under the act, according to the Office of Court Administration. Conroy said, “We’ve seen a tremendous response and efficiency from the court system in New York. It’s been gratifying to see judges that have stepped in and recognized the significance of these cases, and the issues of compassion and empathy for the victims…Judges are rolling up their sleeves and saying ‘How are were going to address this is an expeditious way?”