New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed the Adult Survivors Act into law on May 24.
The law allows victims of sexual trauma who were adults when the alleged incident occurred to proceed with bringing a civil action against the accused. Previously, if an adult survivor of sexual abuse tried to file their case in court they would have been barred due to the statute of limitations.
FingerLakes1.com recently spoke with Ryan McCall, an attorney with Tully Rinckey PLLC’s Albany office, to discuss how the new law impacts adult survivors and when can survivors expect to begin filing.
When can lawsuits be filed?
The bill is similar to the Child Victims Act passed in 2019, which provides a one-year window for adult survivors to sue their alleged childhood abusers.
According to McCall, lawsuits can start to be filed under the ASA six months from the date that the law was signed. The law was signed by Gov. Hochul in late May, therefore, this would mean the law should be going into effect around the end of November.
“The good part about this is it gives those individuals who suffered this trauma, the ability to process and think, Is this something they want to do, right? Do they want to go down this route? And that’s something where now they have the option,” said McCall.
Bringing up past trauma
This new law will give adults who suffered from past sexual trauma a chance to bring their accusers to law.
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network criminal justice system statistics, the majority of sexual assaults are not reported to the police, and the vast majority of perpetrators will not go to jail or prison.
McCall says it will take time for results to play out.
“We’re really gonna need to see how it plays out. I think if you begin to see a lot of inquiries or charges being filed, you know, I think really, from there, we’re going to be able to reassess. But I genuinely think it’s going to do a lot of good for those individuals who finally have that opportunity to maybe bring that case that they didn’t want to bring all those years ago.”
The sorts of charges that are considered sexual abuse are codified in the penal code which includes forcible talking, sexual harassment, and anything beyond that according to McCall.
Enough evidence is crucial, says NY attorney
In regards to recent news and government officials being charged for their previous actions, McCall says if anything the recent wave of allegations coming from elected officials is one of the reasons why the ASA was put through.
“I do think you’re gonna see is more individuals from all different aspects and all different walks of life bring in charges, but I definitely wouldn’t be surprised if we did see some being brought against government officials.”
However, one of the main issues according to McCall is not having enough evidence as the rules of evidence in these lawsuits still apply.
“In my experience, the older these cases go, the longer they drag on, and the more difficult it is to bring that evidence. Time elapses and people lose things or they don’t have access to things. I think that may be a hurdle. I’m not 100% sure how it would affect it moving forward.”
McCall recommends anyone who is seeking to bring these types of charges to court is to consult with an attorney first.
“There’s a lot of attorneys out there who will be able to advise you on what to be able to do. Typically, I would foresee bringing these charges in a civil action, which allows you to recoup some of those monetary damages.”