Generally, under the current law, the victim of child sex abuse can bring a lawsuit against the individual who committed the offense, until he or she turns 23, (18, which is the age of majority, plus 5 years). However, the victim only has until age 21 to bring a civil lawsuit for negligently allowing the sexual abuse to occur, such as the church that moved a priest from one parish to another to conceal previous sexual misconduct with children, or a school that knew that the offender should have been kept away from students, (but public school districts and schools will generally have shorter time limits).
Why are these time limits important?
For obvious reasons, many victims of abuse are ashamed to come forward and complain, particularly when they live in the same communities where the events took place. Many will not be comfortable with speaking out about the events at all until they are well into adulthood. Others will suppress the memories, and will be unable to confront the realities of the events for many years after the fact.
How do these time limits compare to the law in other states?
This is one of the shortest time limits in the country, and has been called a disgrace by advocates in this field. There is no time limit in Florida if the victim was under 16, and other conservative states such as Georgia and Utah have more favorable laws than New York.
Had anyone tried to do anything to fix this problem?
Yes –Bills were introduced in both the New York State Assembly and the New York State Senate in the 2016 legislative session which would have done away with all time limits on civil suits for sexual offense committed against victims under eighteen years of age.
What happened to the efforts to pass these changes in the law?
They were all defeated. The New York Catholic Conference of Bishops has been among the strongest opponents of the Child Victims Act since it was first introduced in the New York State Legislature. The measure has been adopted in one form or another by the Assembly four times since 2006, but has never even come to the floor of the State Senate for a vote.