Empowers Survivors of Sexual Offenses that Occurred When They Were Over the Age of 18 to File Suit Regardless of When Abuse Occurred
One-Year Lookback Window Begins Six Months from Signing
Governor Kathy Hochul today signed the Adult Survivors Act (S.66A/A.648A), creating a one-year lookback window for survivors of sexual assault that occurred when they were over the age of 18 to sue their abusers regardless of when the abuse occurred.
"Today, we take an important step in empowering survivors across New York to use their voices and hold their abusers accountable," Governor Hochul said. "The fight against sexual assault requires us to recognize the impact of trauma within our justice system. I am proud to sign this legislation, which is part of our collective responsibility to protect one another and create an environment that makes survivors feel safe. While our work is not done, eradicating sexual assault begins with our ability to bring the perpetrators of these heinous acts to justice and this legislation is a historic step forward."
In 2019, New York passed the Child Victims Act, which created a one-year lookback window for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file claims otherwise barred by the statute of limitations.
Similar to the Child Victims Act, the Adult Survivors Act will empower survivors of sexual offenses that occurred when they were over the age of 18. The one-year window will begin six months from signing and will allow survivors to sue regardless of the statute of limitations. For many survivors, it may take years to come to terms with the trauma of sexual assault and feel ready to seek justice against an abuser, while possibly experiencing fear of retaliation or shame.
In 2019, New York extended the statute of limitations to 20 years for adults filing civil lawsuits for a select number of sex crimes. However, that legislation only affected new cases and was not retroactive.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, "For too long, our legal system has failed adult survivors and prevented them from accessing true justice. It takes time to come forward, particularly when faced with the trauma that accompanies disclosures. With the Adult Survivors Act, we are saying that we believe you and that you deserve accountability. This powerful legislation is the first of many steps towards better supporting survivors of sexual abuse and ensuring these heinous crimes don't go unpunished. I want to especially commend the Senate sponsor, Senator Brad Hoylman, for his tireless advocacy and thank Governor Hochul for signing it into law."
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said, "The Adult Survivors Act is critical to ensuring that every survivor of sexual abuse is able to have their day in court and experience a sense of justice. This legislation builds on our previous work to deliver justice to survivors of childhood sexual abuse and sends a clear message that perpetrators will be held accountable. I would also like to thank Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal for her unwavering support for survivors and tireless efforts to get this legislation to the governor's desk."
State Senator Brad Hoylman said, "Victory! Today is a watershed moment for survivor justice in the State of New York. With Governor Hochul's signature on our Adult Survivors Act, we send a powerful message to sexual abuse survivors: We hear you! We would not be here today without the courage of your convictions that propelled you to share your deeply personal stories about the sexual abuse that upended your lives and made legislative passage possible. Finally, courthouse doors across our state will be flung open so you can confront your abusers and seek the justice that was too long denied you. To the predators who for decades have benefitted from New York's prohibitively short statutes of limitations, you know who you are. The Adult Survivors Act will bring you to justice and make New York a safer place for everyone. I'm grateful to Governor Hochul, Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, Speaker Heastie, and my colleagues in the State Senate and Assembly, several of whom are sexual abuse survivors themselves."
Today, we take an important step in empowering survivors across New York to use their voices and hold their abusers accountable.
Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal said, ""Regardless of your age, sexual assault destroys a piece of you, and it takes most survivors time to process and overcome the trauma. More time than New York law currently allows. Now that the Adult Survivors Act is finally law, the doors to justice will be flung wide open and countless survivors will have an opportunity to seize justice by filing a case against their abusers, and the institutions that harbored them, in the civil court. The ASA will also ensure that predators who have hidden behind New York's weak laws will finally face justice. And, the passage of the ASA signals a long overdue shift in New York's law, a necessary rebalancing of the scales of justice and ensures that survivors are protected. I was humbled to work with a fearless group of survivors who have been relentless in their pursuit of justice. These brave survivors have been the heart and soul of our movement, and it is for them that I fought. All of New York owes them a tremendous debt of gratitude. I am grateful my colleagues in the New York State Assembly and Speaker Car Heastie for his leadership. And to Governor Hochul for wasting no time signing the Adult Survivors Act into law. Survivors have waited long enough, it's about time they see justice prevail. Today, they will."
The Adult Survivors Act builds on Governor Hochul's steadfast and ongoing commitment to protecting and supporting survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. Earlier this year, the Governor announced nearly $24 million for domestic violence and sexual assault programs, including $16 million for 83 domestic violence programs and shelters and $7.6 million for 50 rape crisis centers and sexual assault programs.
Governor Hochul also recently announced $21.4 million in federal aid being used for domestic violence service providers to help survivors pay for the short-term expenses associated with relocation, including rent, utilities, and repairs.
Earlier this month, Governor Hochul signed legislation that expanded protections for victims of domestic violence to areas of discrimination where they were not previously guaranteed, such as housing and public accommodations.
Executive Director of the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault Joanne Zannoni said, "Sexual assault survivors often need time before they are ready to come forward. The Adult Survivors Act offers a window of opportunity for survivors to hold their abusers accountable. This can be an important part of survivors' healing."
Executive Director of the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence Connie Neal said, "Healing from sexual violence is a journey, and survivors may not come forward for several years. A majority of survivors know their abusers and they may be reluctant to report incidents due to fear of retaliation or exposure of intimate details. They may also feel that they will be blamed, defamed, or will not be taken seriously. There is also a clear link between sexual assault and domestic violence as most survivors who are physically assaulted by an intimate partner also disclose experiencing sexual assault by that same partner. We thank Governor Hochul and members of the legislature for upholding New York's commitment to supporting survivors by expanding the statute of limitations and providing avenues of justice to so many across our state."
Model Alliance Executive Director Sara Ziff said, "Some of the most high profile villains that the #metoo movement unmasked -- like Jeffrey Epstein and Harvey Epstein -- preyed on models; a uniquely vulnerable workforce due to the predatory labor structure that leaves young women and girls trapped in a cycle of debt and dependence. The Adult Survivors Act will hopefully provide a pathway to healing for individuals as well as necessary accountability for the industry at large. The Model Alliance is so proud of our fellow advocates and survivors who fought to make this day a reality, and we are grateful to Governor Hochul for her swift action."
CEO of Safe Horizon Liz Roberts said, "The collective power of survivors is one of the most powerful forces I have ever encountered. The Adult Survivors Act is a testament to that power. I'm grateful to every survivor who told their story, who met with a lawmaker, who used their voice on social media or in any other way. We would not be here without them. Thank you Governor Hochul and the Legislature for hearing survivors, making them a priority and giving them another path to justice."
The Foundation for Survivors of Abuse Executive Director Mary Ellen O'Loughlin said, "Passage of the ASA took a fraction of the time that it took for CVA to pass. It's good to know legislators listen and act on what is right. Now it's time for the abusers to feel the raw vulnerability so many survivors have felt."
Executive Director of the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault Emily Miles said, "We are proud to stand with Governor Hochul today as she signs this critical legislation that will finally allow all survivors of sexual violence, no matter their age, the ability to seek justice from the individuals and institutions that for too long have lacked accountability for the harm they have caused. We thank Governor Hochul for her support and the swift signing of this legislation, Assemblymember Rosenthal and Senator Hoylman for their unwavering advocacy, and the survivors who for years bravely made their voices heard."
A Little Piece of Light Founder and CEO Donna Hylton said, "Today Governor Hochul signed the Adult Survivors Act into law, opening more avenues for individuals to pursue justice by providing an additional method of redress for adult survivors of sexual assault. A Little Piece of Light is committed to eliminating devastating barriers to health and safety, eradicating callous and arbitrary policies that revictimize survivors, leading to increased risk of incarceration, lack of shelter and more. Passage of the ASA is a necessary and significant step towards achieving this reality and creating a safer, more equitable New York."
Survivor and Advocate Marissa Hoechstetter said, "The Adult Survivors Act is a huge win for survivors, especially at a time when women's bodily autonomy is under attack. I am incredibly grateful to Governor Hochul and Senate and Assembly Leadership for making New York a national leader on survivors rights. The Adult Survivors Act is about giving people a voice in how they choose to heal from harm done to them. Whether or not a survivor exercises their right to pursue civil justice under this law is completely up to them. Nonetheless, we're putting the power back in the hands of survivors. That's what matters. That's the message this sends to those individuals and institutions who perpetuate a culture of sexual violence."
Survivor and Advocate Drew Dixon said, "It's not possible to show up fully in the world when you are hiding your truth to make space for your abuser's lie, so this is a watershed moment. The ASA will empower survivors to have their stories heard, scrutinized, and at long last, acknowledged. I'm really overwhelmed with gratitude today, because so many people will be set free."
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