On February 14, 2019, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the New York Child Victims Act into law. Now thousands of sexually-abused children in that state will have their day in court. As part of the new law, a one-year window opened in August that allows these children to file claims against their abusers and/or the institutions involved in civil court. The new law has spurred thousands of new cases and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
While the New York Child Victims Act only applies to New York, the impact of its passing has been huge. Many other states have followed suit, introducing their own versions of the Child Victims Act. Here’s a list of states in which West Bend does business and the status of such a law in those states:
Law already in effect in 2019: Iowa, Tennessee
Law recently passed in 2019: Illinois, North Carolina
Law introduced in 2019: Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas
No active legislation: Wisconsin, Michigan
New York Child Victims Act 2019
The New York Child Victims Act has extended the statute of limitations for survivors of child sexual abuse in criminal and civil cases. Now there’s more time for survivors of child sexual abuse to file criminal charges or a claim for monetary damages. The Child Victims Act also allows claims to be brought against private or public institutions that may have been involved - including cases of negligence. Special training will be provided to judges to help them better deal with cases involving child sexual abuse.
What has changed?
Before the revised statute of limitations, survivors of child sexual abuse had between one and five years to bring a civil suit against their abuser(s). This time frame started after the victim turned 18 years old. Because it may be difficult for a survivor of child sexual abuse to come forward or even recognize their trauma, the one to five-year time frame has been deemed too short. The Child Victims Act now allows survivors to file a claim for damages until they are 55 years old. It also gives those who were unable to file under the old law a one-year period to file a civil claim from a case which may have already expired.
What can you do?
- Be prepared; understand that more survivors may come forward and why it may have taken time to come forward.
- Understand that a fragmented or uncertain recollection of events doesn’t mean the survivor isn’t credible.
- After a survivor is identified, reach out to them and offer support. If support is declined, ask what would be most helpful to them and what they would like to see going forward.
- While meeting with a survivor, be compassionate and avoid displaying skepticism. Let them know they were right to come forward and follow your reporting requirements.
For your business:
- Create or facilitate an environment where no opportunities for abuse can occur. Rule breaking or inappropriate behavior should be met with zero tolerance.
- Allow for 100% supervision at all times; one-on-one activities should not be accepted or condoned.
- Discuss with all your leaders and staff the importance of abuse reporting and prevention. Staff should be trained to recognize child abuse and red flags associated with “grooming” – even from other employees.
- Be prepared to respond to any and all allegations. Everything should be documented.
- Because the statute of limitations has widened, be sure to gather as much information as possible regarding past insurance policies. It will be necessary if any survivors come forward.