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New York's "Adult Survivors Act" extends statute of limitations for sex abuse survivors to come forward with lawsuits

"Adult Survivors Act" extends statute of limitations for sex abuse survivors
"Adult Survivors Act" extends statute of limitations for sex abuse survivors 02:02

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Adult sex abuse survivors are getting a second chance to file lawsuits against their alleged abusers.

As CBS2's Natalie Duddridge reported, it was a momentous moment Tuesday for victims of sexual abuse. 

"It is a victory for justice and it's long overdue," Gov. Kathy Hochul said at the bill signing. "So many people have fought for this to finally have their voices heard."

The bill that will now allow adult victims of sex abuse to file a claim, even if it's decades old. 

"I was pregnant with my twin girls, who are now 11, when I was sexually assaulted by my OBGYN at Columbia University. I'm one of over 230 women who have come forward to report crimes against him," survivor advocate Marissa Hoechstetter said. 

When Hoechstetter was ready to file, she was outside the state's statute of limitations, a deadline imposed on how long someone can wait to sue in civil court. 

"For people like me and others like me, who crimes against us happened over a decade ago, in my personal case, I went forward to law enforcement and was not really taken seriously," she said. 

Now under the Adult Survivors Act, victims over 18 will be given a one-year window, regardless of how long ago the crime happened. 

"It's a huge win for survivors. It's a huge moment for New York State to really be a leader in survivors' rights," said Hoechstetter.

The bill was modeled after the Child Victims Act, which passed in 2019 and has since expired. It gave children and teens under 18 a chance to sue over sexual abuse they suffered, and 11,000 lawsuits were filed. 

Some lawmakers had been reluctant to do the same for adults, arguing they were more capable of speaking up. Critics also said the longer someone waits, it becomes more difficult to hold a fair trial, as evidence and memories fade. 

But advocacy groups, like Safe Horizon, a victim assistance organization, say the new window does not affect the legal process. 

"It doesn't change the rules of evidence. It doesn't favor the plaintiff in any way, shape or form. It simply opens the courtroom doors, and that's what's so important," said Michael Polenberg, Safe Horizon's VP of government relations.

The one-time window to file claims will begin in six months, giving survivors time to decide if they would like to come forward.

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