EDITORIAL: Give adult sexual assault victims justice, too

judges_gavel.jpg

It’s bad enough that many sexual abusers and rapists get away with their crimes.

It’s an added offense when the state helps them do it.

A bill pending in the state Legislature, the Adult Survivors Act, would help older victims of sex crimes get the justice they deserve.

The Adult Survivors Act (A0648/S0066) would create a one-year look-back window — similar to the one created in 2019 for victims of child sexual abuse — that would allow victims age 18 or older to bring civil litigation against their abusers.

The act would apply to Article 130 crimes, including second- and third-degree rape, criminal sex acts and other incest offenses.

Before the Legislature extended the statutes of limitations on many sex crimes in 2019, the statute of limitations for bringing lawsuits in such cases by adults was five years, which means if a case went unreported or if a victim didn’t come forward within that time, they’ve lost their right to sue their attacker.

The new statutes of limitations passed two years ago are not retroactive, which means that victims with cases under the old statutes of limitations have only one to five years remaining to file their lawsuits.

As we’ve seen with child abuse victims, young adults and older victims often either suppress the memories of their abuse or are afraid or unwilling to come forward right away.

By the time many of these victims get the help they need and finally are able to take legal action against their abusers, it’s too late legally for them to do anything about it.

If sexual abusers are able to run out the clock on the state’s very narrow old statutes of limitations, they get away with their crimes and are free to continue abusing other victims.

This new law, which has been floating around the Legislature for the last couple of years, would give these older victims barred by the statute of limitations a full year to bring their civil cases forward, no matter when the offense occurred.

The window also would apply to past cases in which victims’ claims were dismissed because they exceeded the statute of limitations.

In addition, the bill would establish special pre-trial preference for these older cases to ensure they’re expedited.

And it would allow civil suits to be brought against any institution — such as a workplace, school or house of worship — where the abuse took place.

The window would start six months after the bill is enacted, which means the sooner the Legislature passes the bill and the sooner the governor signs it, the sooner victims can seek justice.

The current legislative session ends June 10, giving lawmakers less than a month to get this bill passed.

Under the litigation window opened under the Child Victims Act, more than 5,000 lawsuits have been filed by victims of abuse as children. It’s only fair that those 18 or older have the same opportunity.

Their attackers have already made them victims once.

The state shouldn’t make them victims a second time.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

Leave a Reply