On 24 November 2022, the state of New York will introduce a one-year window for victims of sexual assault to bring their cases to court. The Adult Survivors Act will allow those who were 18 or older at the time of their abuse to file lawsuits against their abusers, no matter how long ago the abuse took place. This is welcome news for the thousands of victims who found themselves silenced by the state’s statute of limitations (essentially, an expiry date on when legal claims can be filed).

As civil litigators representing victims and survivors of sexual assault, we often encounter cases where these restrictions prevent otherwise valid claims from proceeding. We know that many victims of sexual assault can take years to process what happened to them. Unfortunately, by the time they are prepared to confront their abuser in court, many of these cases have expired. 

Legislators are aware that these restrictions have presented a barrier to justice. In 2019, New York extended its statute of limitations to 20 years for a wide range of sex offenses, but only for cases brought after 2019. Now, with the Adult Survivors Act, all victims who were assaulted as adults will be able to sue their offender in a civil court. Victims will also be able to bring claims against employers and institutions that allowed the abuse to happen, including public institutions such as hospitals, prisons, and homeless shelters. 

The Adult Survivors Act covers a wide range of sexual offenses listed in New York penal code, including all sexual acts committed without consent, whether through force, lack of capacity or ability to give consent, or because the offender was a relative of the victim. The new law has been modelled on the Child Victims Act (CVA), which saw around 10,000 cases filed in New York by victims of child sexual abuse (including Virginia Giuffre’s case against Prince Andrew). We expect – and hope – that the Adult Survivors Act will give those who were assaulted as adults the same opportunity to hold their abusers publicly accountable, or to reach a settlement compensating them for the harms they suffered.

Victims should be aware that it is never easy to bring a case to court. Not all sexual offenses will satisfy the legal criteria for bringing a claim, and it can be particularly difficult to establish whether an employer or institution was responsible for the past actions of their staff. Victims should also be aware that litigation can be a long and emotionally draining process, and that finding an attorney they are comfortable with is hugely important.

If you have read the above and are thinking about filing a claim against your abuser in New York, contact us now for a confidential discussion of your options. McAllister Olivarius has a proud history of helping victims and survivors fight their abusers. We have fought some of the world’s most powerful institutions and won significant sums of money for our clients in the process. Our attorneys understand how difficult it can be to discuss traumatic incidents from your past, and will help guide you through the entire process.

The Adult Survivors Act will remain open until 24 November 2023. Claims filed after this deadline may be rejected.