MANHATTAN, NY — They are just a few of the thousands of victims of child sexual assaults in New York, and they are now publicly telling their stories to encourage other victims in the state to do the same.
Victims now have a chance to seek justice, no matter when and how long ago the abuse happened.
“A special one-year window [opened]; survivors will have one year only, no matter what their age, to file civil charges against the abuser or against the institution that allowed the abuse to happen,” said Ariel Zwang, CEO of Safe Horizon.
Assemblywoman Yuh Line Niou publicly told her story in January right before the Child Victims Act bill passed, which then-Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the following month.
“It’s not something I’d like to bring up because it is something that is so shameful and so horrible and so traumatic of an experience to me and to many of the other victims, that it is really really hard to bring up, it’s really hard to talk about it for many many reasons.”
Since a key provision of the bill took effect last Wednesday, over 439 cases had been filed so far in New York. At least 105 of those cases were against a New York state Catholic Church diocese.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, acknowledging the anticipated flood of lawsuits, asked for prayers.
“I just want to say that it is a tough time, it is a dark time, it’s especially difficult for our beloved victims and their families to see all this dug up again, to have these wounds open. It’s a tough time for our victims, survivors and families. And I’d ask you to pray for them, could I ask you as well to pray for the overwhelming majority of our great priests who have been extraordinarily faithful and hard-working.”
According to reports, besides the church and other institutions, lawsuits were also filed against various individuals.
“If like I did, and you’re a survivor, and you believed that there is something wrong with you that needs to be fixed, that you need to stop disappointing yourself and those that you love and that are around you,” said survivor Brian Toale. “If you’re still living with the toxic burden of shame, that’s the legacy of childhood sexual abuse, remember, we are only as sick as our secrets, please reach out to someone you trust.”
The new law also gives victims more time to file civil and criminal cases after the one year period expires. They have until the age of 28 to file a criminal case and up to age of 55 to file a civil claim against their alleged abusers.
Four other states — California, Hawaii, Minnesota and Delaware — have passed similar limited windows for sexual abuse claims.
Meanwhile, starting on December 1st, New Jersey will allow victims of sexual assault a two-year window to file claims for past abuse.