Hochul signs Adult Survivors Act

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Gov. Kathy Hochul signs Adult Survivors Act.
Office of Governor Kathy Hochul/Mike Groll

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday signed the Adult Survivors Act (S.66A/A.648A), creating a one-year lookback window for survivors of sexual assault that occurred when they were over the age of 18 to sue their abusers regardless of when the abuse occurred.

“Today, we take an important step in empowering survivors across New York to use their voices and hold their abusers accountable,” said Gov. Hochul. “The fight against sexual assault requires us to recognize the impact of trauma within our justice system.

“I am proud to sign this legislation, which is part of our collective responsibility to protect one another and create an environment that makes survivors feel safe,” she added. “While our work is not done, eradicating sexual assault begins with our ability to bring the perpetrators of these heinous acts to justice and this legislation is a historic step forward.”

In 2019, New York passed the Child Victims Act, which created a one-year lookback window for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file claims otherwise barred by the statute of limitations.

Similar to the Child Victims Act, the Adult Survivors Act will empower survivors of sexual offenses that occurred when they were over the age of 18.

The governor said the one-year window will begin six months from signing and will allow survivors to sue regardless of the statute of limitations.

For many survivors, she said it may take years to come to terms with the trauma of sexual assault and feel ready to seek justice against an abuser, while possibly experiencing fear of retaliation or shame.

In 2019, New York extended the statute of limitations to 20 years for adults filing civil lawsuits for a select number of sex crimes. However, that legislation only affected new cases and was not retroactive.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, “For too long, our legal system has failed adult survivors and prevented them from accessing true justice. It takes time to come forward, particularly when faced with the trauma that accompanies disclosures.

“With the Adult Survivors Act, we are saying that we believe you and that you deserve accountability,” she said. “This powerful legislation is the first of many steps towards better supporting survivors of sexual abuse and ensuring these heinous crimes don’t go unpunished. I want to especially commend the Senate sponsor, Sen. Brad Hoylman, for his tireless advocacy and thank Gov. Hochul for signing it into law.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said, “The Adult Survivors Act is critical to ensuring that every survivor of sexual abuse is able to have their day in court and experience a sense of justice.

“This legislation builds on our previous work to deliver justice to survivors of childhood sexual abuse and sends a clear message that perpetrators will be held accountable,” said Heastie, who traces his roots to the Bahamas. “I would also like to thank Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal for her unwavering support for survivors and tireless efforts to get this legislation to the governor’s desk.”

State Sen. Brad Hoylman said, “Victory! Today is a watershed moment for survivor justice in the State of New York. With Governor Hochul’s signature on our Adult Survivors Act, we send a powerful message to sexual abuse survivors: We hear you!

“We would not be here today without the courage of your convictions that propelled you to share your deeply personal stories about the sexual abuse that upended your lives and made legislative passage possible,” he added. “Finally, courthouse doors across our state will be flung open so you can confront your abusers and seek the justice that was too long denied you.

“To the predators who for decades have benefitted from New York’s prohibitively short statutes of limitations, you know who you are,” he added. “The Adult Survivors Act will bring you to justice and make New York a safer place for everyone.

“I’m grateful to Gov. Hochul, Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, Speaker Heastie, and my colleagues in the State Senate and Assembly, several of whom are sexual abuse survivors themselves,” Hoylman continued.

Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal said, “Regardless of your age, sexual assault destroys a piece of you, and it takes most survivors time to process and overcome the trauma. More time than New York law currently allows.

“Now that the Adult Survivors Act is finally law, the doors to justice will be flung wide open and countless survivors will have an opportunity to seize justice by filing a case against their abusers, and the institutions that harbored them, in the civil court,” she said. “The ASA will also ensure that predators who have hidden behind New York’s weak laws will finally face justice.

“And, the passage of the ASA signals a long overdue shift in New York’s law, a necessary rebalancing of the scales of justice and ensures that survivors are protected,” she added. “I was humbled to work with a fearless group of survivors who have been relentless in their pursuit of justice.

“These brave survivors have been the heart and soul of our movement, and it is for them that I fought. All of New York owes them a tremendous debt of gratitude,” Rosenthal continued. “I am grateful my colleagues in the New York State Assembly and Speaker Car Heastie for his leadership. And to Gov. Hochul for wasting no time signing the Adult Survivors Act into law. Survivors have waited long enough, it’s about time they see justice prevail. Today, they will.”

Haitian American Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, said: “As a victim of sexual abuse and a cosponsor of the Adult Survivors Act, I am relieved that survivors of sexual abuse can, at last, seek justice in the court room.

“I commend the lead sponsor, Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, my colleagues, Safe Horizon, and many more for listening to our cries,” added Bichotte Hermelyn, who represents the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn.

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