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EDITORIAL: Extend Child Victims Act window a year

EDITORIAL: Extend Child Victims Act window a year

Many sex abuse victims can't bring legal action in time before one-year look-back window expires
EDITORIAL: Extend Child Victims Act window a year
Photographer: Shutterstock

There are more. Probably many more.

They deserve their chance to get justice, too.

We’re talking about victims of child sexual abuse. And since New York opened a one-year window in August to allow victims of older cases to come forward and bring civil action, more than 1,300 lawsuits have been filed under the state’s new Child Victims Act.

But it’s likely that the number of cases only represents the tip of the iceberg compared to the actual number of children victimized years ago by priests, counselors, teachers, Scout leaders, coaches and other adults.

Some victims haven’t come forward yet because they’re just now coming to grips with what happened to them as children. It often takes many years for victims to come to grips with their abuse and then muster the courage to report it.

Some haven’t come forward because they haven’t been able to secure an attorney to take the case, especially if their abuser was a parent or family member or someone without deep pockets to pick in a civil suit. Lawsuits cost money, and lawyers like to make their time worthwhile.

Some were waiting to see the outcome of the newly brought cases to determine if it was worth the pain and anguish and time and money to bring their own cases.

And despite the extensive reporting in the media, some victims might not realize they have the chance to bring legal action against their abusers or that the time for them to do so is quickly running out.

In the cases of those sex-abuse victims, the one year window — which expires in August — simply isn’t enough time to bring their cases forward.

Extending the window one more year, as the original sponsors of the Child Victims Act have proposed, would give those victims left out of the initial wave of litigation the opportunity to get the justice that other victims have been seeking.

A year, it turns out, is just not enough time for everyone to come forward.

Extensions of the look-back window are not unprecedented.

New Jersey passed its own version of the Child Victims Act with a built-in two-year window that started Dec. 1. As of Jan. 1, California allows victims three years to come forward, and North Carolina has given victims two years.

The only people who should object to an extension are those abusers whose victims haven’t yet come forward.

They are no doubt anxiously crossing off days of the calendar, and crossing their fingers, that no suits will be brought against them before the window closes.

They shouldn’t be allowed to escape the consequences of their actions just because their victims couldn’t bring their cases in time.

The victims eligible to bring action have lived with their abuse for many years.

The least the state can do is give them another year to seek justice.
 

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