Whether advocating for a complainant in a criminal prosecution or a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit, Child Victims Act attorneys know that sex abuse cases involving children are some of the most disturbing and difficult legal matters they can handle even if the victim of these acts are now adults. Fortunately, however, with the passage and enactment of New York’s Child Victims Act and its year-long “look back” period and expansion of time frames allowing for the commencement of either a civil or criminal action, victims of sexual abuse and molestation can move one step closer to holding their abusers accountable up and down the state from New York City, Long Island and the Hudson Valley to Albany, Syracuse and Buffalo. While prosecutors can pursue felony charges against an alleged offender years after victimization and until a complainant is 28 years old, those who seek their victimizer’s accountability and financial liability, have a different set of rules to follow. Some of these rules and frequently asked questions about the statute are addressed below.
At What Age are You Considered a Child Sex Abuse Victim?
If you were under the age of 18 at the time of your sexual abuse or molestation, you can commence a civil case. You window to do so lasts until you are 55 years old.
Can You Only File a Lawsuit Against Your Sexual Abuser?
You can commence a civil action against the person who molested or sexually assaulted you as well as a third party who may have allowed your violation to occur, was complicit in your victimization, or was otherwise liable. If, for example, a teacher at your boarding school or member of the clergy engaged in unlawful conduct – intercourse, oral, vaginal or anal sex, non-penetrative touching of intimate areas – then not only would they be subject to this law, but you could potentially pursue your remedies against the school or religious institution whether a church, synagogue or mosque. No notice of claim is required.
Can I Still File a Lawsuit if I am Over 55 Years Old?
Maybe. If you start your civil action against your abuser and/or the liable third party on or before August 13, 2020, then even if you fall outside the statutory guideline because you are too old, you can pursue your legal remedies and potential monetary award. It is of no consequence during this brief time frame whether a prior case was dismissed due to the statute of limitations, you never began an action, or you are far older than 55. If you fail to act, however, your rights will expire.
How Long Will I Have to Wait for a Trial?
First, its important to recognize that most cases do not go to trial. However, you as a plaintiff, are in control and your sex abuse lawyer will advocate to best achieve the goal you seek. Is it an admission or acknowledgement of responsibility? Is it financial? Is it both? Ultimately, if you want your day in court, you will get it if your abuser refuses to accept his or her wrongdoing or agree to your terms. In the event a trial is necessary, your counsel cannot tell you when or how long it will take before testimony begins, but the law allows for these matters to “jump” over cases that may have been pending far longer.
What Types of Damages or Monetary Award Can I Receive?
Just as every person and the circumstances of their sexual abuse is unique, so is every case. Relevant factors may include the nature of the conduct, the duration of the conduct, and its direct and collateral impact on you throughout life from schooling and personal to employment and mental health. Ultimately, a successful action can result in significant financial and monetary awards. Again, you are in control. Whether it is accountability, acknowledgment, or a disgorgement of monies in your favor, you will decide what you believe the outcome should be and your counsel will advise as to the best strategy.
Whether you are seeking the prosecution of an offender in a criminal matter or you want to pursue your rights in the civil courts, educate yourself on the Child Victims Act and bring yourself that much closer to a healthy place while ensuring your abuser does not escape justice.
Saland Law PC is a New York law firm founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors representing victims of child sexual abuse both in criminal prosecutions and lawsuits in civil courts.