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The Adult Survivors Act would Bring Justice to Thousands of New Yorkers

The Adult Survivors Act is proposed legislation in New York State that would create a one year look back window to allow individuals who were 18 or older when they were sexually assaulted to file a civil lawsuit against the person who harmed them and/or the negligent institution. 

Due to the short statute of limitations that most adult survivors faced at the time they were assaulted, many have been denied the opportunity to seek legal accountability for the crimes committed against them. On April 26, 2022, Equality Now participated in a day of advocacy, organized by our partners at Safe Horizon, in support of the ASA and of all survivors who have been denied justice. 

Legal Advisor, Jorie Dugan delivered the following remarks at the New York State Capital Building in Albany:

International human rights law recognizes rape as a human rights violation and a manifestation of gender-based violence against women and girls. International Human Rights Courts have held that under certain circumstances rape is a form of torture, deserving of no statute of limitation period to reflect the gravity of the crime. 

And human rights legal experts agree, statute of limitations benefit the perpetrators of abuse rather than their victims. 

At Equality Now, we see how sexual violence laws around the world can often contribute to and exacerbate dangerous stereotypes about victims rather than create a pathway to justice and healing.

Statute of limitations are an excellent example of this. There is a misconception that any true victim of a crime will report the harm done to them right away and that a delay indicates a lack of veracity or severity. However, in addition to the science of trauma (that previous speakers addressed), we cannot forget the fact that sexual violence is a crime that is shrouded in stigma and shame.

This culture of shame and blame as well as trauma, intimidation, and even a lack of recognition of abuse or time to process it keep many victims from coming forward. Short statute of limitations place an overwhelming burden on survivors to overcome these incredibly real and challenging obstacles and if they are unable to accommodate these timelines then their perpetrators evade punishment and survivors never see justice.

In 2019, New York proved that we are at the vanguard of the global movement to end statutory impunity when we extended many of our statutes of limitations for sexual violence crimes, bringing the state more in line with international human rights standards. However, despite this progress, New York has still left some survivors behind. Once again our state has the opportunity to make sure all survivors of sexual abuse have access to justice by passing the Adult Survivors Act.

If you want to learn more about statute of limitations, you can explore our factsheet on the topic.