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Imagine being a 22-year-old and a survivor of child sexual abuse. Now imagine you live in a state where, by your next birthday, you must decide whether to sue those responsible for your abuse or forfeit that right forever.

Is a 22-year-old victim of child sexual abuse necessarily ready to make that life-altering decision? That is the question that states across the U.S. are wrestling with and a question that New York recently answered.

What is New York’s Child Victims Act?

New York law has stipulated that victims of child sexual abuse have until their 23rd birthday to sue those responsible for the abuse. That all changes in New York when Governor Cuomo signs the new Child Victims Act into law. From that point forward, New York will join a growing number of states putting victims’ rights first.

Here are some of the ways the new law changes things.

  • Extension of the statute of limitations. Under the new law, victims of childhood sexual abuse have until their 55th birthday to file suit. The evidence used to support this change comes from studies showing that victims of child sexual abuse do not come forward, on average, until age 52.
  • Look-back period. Any victims of child sexual abuse who previously missed the window to sue their abusers will now be given a one-year window to reconsider filing a lawsuit against the abusers or any institution that played a role in the abuse.

The new law means a significant change for victims of child sexual abuse. The most important thing for all of us to remember is that only the victim can decide the most appropriate and healing course of action in the aftermath of abuse. Perhaps these changes in the law will help give more victims the courage they need to hold their abusers accountable.