Next Wednesday, adult survivors of child sex abuse in New York will begin filing a flood of civil lawsuits against institutions and individuals, after decades of having their cases barred from court because the allegations were too old.
Hundreds of plaintiffs are expected to sue organizations large and small, including Catholic dioceses and parishes, the Boy Scouts of America, hospitals and educational institutions. The one year window was enacted under the Child Victims Act that lawmakers passed in January, and intended as a partial remedy to the state’s previous statute of limitations, which required victims to bring civil cases before their 21st birthday and criminal lawsuits before they turned 23. Under the new law, survivors have five more years to file criminal cases and until their 55th birthday to bring civil lawsuits.
Advocates for survivors said the old law was among the most restrictive in the country and failed to recognize how victims process childhood abuse. Studies have found that the average age for adults who disclose their abuse is 52.