The New York Child Victims Act and the Proposed Federal No Time for Justice Act

An analysis by The Buffalo News revealed that Child Victims Act lawsuits filed in western New York since 2019 alleged that 230 area Catholic priests molested children in nearly every parish in the Buffalo Diocese over the past 75 years. https://buffalonews.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/lawsuits-identify-230-priests-as-molesters-including-8-of-wnys-most-accused-abusers/article_847e4bee-050c-11ec-82e8-d38af1e219ea.html. “The numbers are a striking rebuke to Buffalo Diocese officials who for decades downplayed the extent of abuse in Western New York and protected molester priests from prosecution and public accountability.” The numbers are also probably an undercount because many victims of childhood sexual abuse are reluctant to come forward.

On August 14, 2021, the “look back” window in New York officially closed for adult survivors of sexual abuse to sue their abusers if they were previously barred from legal action due to the statute of limitations or failure to file a notice of claim. The 230 number is just a result of an analysis of lawsuits filed against priests during the look back window in one New York diocese.

The New York Child Victims Act was signed into law in 2019, giving victims of childhood sexual abuse more time to file both criminal and civil suits against alleged abusers and other parties they claim were complicit or involved in their abuse. The law eases the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits. Previously, victims were required to bring civil lawsuits regarding childhood sexual abuse forward by the age of 23, but now, they have until they turn 55 to file. Survivors also now have until the age of 28 to seek criminal charges against their abusers.

The No Time for Justice Act is proposed federal legislation designed to address the disparity in state laws and would provide federal incentives to states that end their statutes of limitations all together for criminal and civil cases of child sexual abuse. https://www.gillibrand.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/No Time Limit for Justice 1-pager – SR Edits.pdf; https://goldrushcam.com/sierrasuntimes/index.php/news/local-news/32508-u-s-senator-kirsten-gillibrand-and-representative-gwen-moore-announce-legislation-to-encourage-states-to-end-statute-of-limitations-for-child-sexual-abuse. Seven states, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming, have eliminated statutes of limitations for all felony sex crimes.

This legislative reform would level the playing field for victims and allow the public to identify child predators and the people and institutions that enable them. A 61-year-old victim of one of the New York priests said he filed a lawsuit because he wants the Catholic Church to “admit they knew what was going on and they kept it hidden for years.”

They kept it hidden as long as they could, but the arc of moral justice is finally, finally bending toward justice. In some places, that is.