What You Need To Know About New York's Adult Survivor Act
The Adult Survivors Act (ASA) in New York became effective on November 24, 2022 and provides a one-year lookback window for survivors of sexual abuse to pursue civil claims in court, regardless of when the abuse occurred. The window lasts until November 23, 2023, giving survivors just over ten months to take advantage of the law. This article provides a comprehensive guide to help you understand and utilize the ASA.
What does the ASA do?
The ASA creates a one-year lookback window for survivors of sexual abuse over the age of 18 to file civil lawsuits for abuse that may have taken place years earlier. Previously, survivors in New York only had a limited time frame to file a lawsuit, which made it difficult for them to come to terms with the abuse, find an attorney, and file a case. The ASA reopens the courthouse doors to allow survivors who missed the previous window to file a claim. Until November 23, 2023, survivors can file a claim in court, regardless of when the abuse took place.
What does the law cover?
The ASA covers a wide range of sexual offenses, including but not limited to forcible touching, rape, sexual assault, sexual misconduct, and other forms of sexual abuse. However, not every sexual offense is covered under the ASA, and it is recommended that you seek the advice of an attorney to assess whether your claim falls within its provisions.
Who can you sue?
The ASA allows survivors to sue not only their abusers but also the institutions that enabled the abuse to take place. These institutions can include entities that had a responsibility to keep the survivor safe and control the actions of the abuser. Claims against institutions can include both intentional and negligent acts. If your abuser was part of a larger organization that contributed to or failed to prevent, notice, or stop the abuse, the ASA empowers you to take legal action against that organization.
This provision is based on New York's 2019 Child Victims Act, which allowed over 10,000 people to sue institutions that played a role in their abuse, including churches, hospitals, schools, and overnight and day camps. The ASA provides a similar recourse to justice for adult survivors, who can sue institutions that gave their abusers power and protected them from accountability.
The institutional defendant provision of the ASA opens up significant opportunities for recovery, as institutions often have deeper pockets than individual abusers. Examples of institutions that could face liability under the ASA include employers, colleges and universities, fraternities and sororities, medical practices, and facilities that house people with disabilities. Any entity that knew about or should have known about and stopped the abuse could be held accountable.
Who is it for?
The ASA is for survivors who were over the age of 18 when they experienced sexual abuse but were previously unable to file due to the statute of limitations. If your case was dismissed as untimely, you can still use the ASA to file a claim. However, if you have already resolved or released your claims through a settlement process, you may not file under the ASA.
Why do we need the ASA?
The ASA is a crucial step in addressing the short statute of limitations that previously existed for survivors of sexual abuse in New York. In 2019, New York extended the statute of limitations for certain civil lawsuits related to sex crimes from five to 20 years, but the law did not apply retroactively. The ASA honors the lived reality of sexual abuse by recognizing that it can take years to process and that survivors often need more time than the previous short filing windows allowed.
Survivors of sexual abuse have many reasons for waiting to come forward with their claims, including fear of retaliation, community backlash, and lack of resources to seek legal representation.