New York State is close to passing state legislation that will extend the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse victims. The bill is called the Child Victims Act, and if it passes, it will increase the civil statute of limitations for child sex abuse to age 55. This will allow the victim of a sexual assault to file a civil lawsuit against their assailant and/or a responsible institution like a school or social or religious institution up until the victim turns 55. In addition, the bill will create a “look-back” window which allows individuals over the age of 55 who wish to bring civil claims against their abuser or responsible entity to do so. The “look-back window” will give sex abuse victims a six month period from when the bill becomes a law to file a lawsuit. The language of the bill also clarifies that both public and private institutions can face litigation under the new law
The reform in legislation across the United States is largely attributed to the recent disclosure of abuse by the Roman Catholic Church. Other states like California, Minnesota, Delaware, and Hawaii have already enacted revisions to their statute of limitations. Rhode Island and New Jersey are also considering similar changes to the law. Pennsylvania is also under pressure to reform its statute of limitations, as it was the epicenter of crisis when a grand jury found 300 priests guilty of child sex abuse over seven decades. Potentially large payouts have prompted the insurance industry, Roman Catholic Church, and Boy Scouts of America to vigorously lobby against other states reforming laws to create look back windows.