Earlier this year, my colleagues Kelsey Woodford and Jolena Jeffrey wrote about the New York Adult Survivors Act and its one-year lookback window. The one-year lookback window lasts until November 23, 2023, so that window will close soon.
The New York Adult Survivor’s Act (“ASA” or “the Act”), which became effective on November 24, 2022, provides a one-year lookback window for people to seek civil remedies for sexual abuse they experienced after they turned 18, regardless of what year the abuse occurred. Many have taken advantage of this lookback window in the past 11 months, but there is just under one month remaining for people to seek civil remedies: the lookback window lasts until November 23, 2023.
Please check out my colleagues’ blog explaining the context and recommendations for understanding and using the New York Adult Survivors Act for more details about the ASA.
Below, I provide an overview of the major provisions of the ASA.
What is the ASA?
The ASA creates a one-year lookback window for people to seek civil remedies for sexual abuse they experienced after they turned 18. Before the ASA, a person who experienced sexual abuse had only a few years to file a lawsuit in New York before their claim expired. Many survivors of sexual abuse struggle to come to terms with the abuse they experienced, and so this narrow window of time meant they had little time to do so, find an attorney, prepare a case, and file a lawsuit. For survivors who missed that narrow window, the ASA reopens the courthouse doors: if you experienced abuse after the age of 18 at any time, you have until November 23, 2023, to file a claim in New York and seek recovery for what happened to you.
The ASA takes account of the reality of sexual abuse, recognizing that it can take years to process, and those years often extend far beyond the short filing windows New York historically created for these types of claims.
What offenses does the law cover?
The ASA makes clear that the sexual offenses covered by the law span a wide range of behaviors, including but not limited to forcible touching, rape, sexual assault, sexual misconduct, and other forms of sexual abuse. Not every sexual offense is covered, however, and an attorney can help assess whether your claims falls within the ASA.
Who can you sue?
Under the ASA, survivors can sue their abusers, as well as the institutions that insulated those abusers from justice. For example, an adult survivor might be able to sue an individual supervisor, professor, or community leader, as well as the institutions that gave their abusers power and protected them from answering for their actions, such as colleges and universities, social organizations such as fraternities and sororities, medical practices, and employers. This opens larger opportunities for recovery, as institutions often have greater resources than individual abusers.
How do you use the ASA?
The first thing you should do is consult an attorney. If you decide to move forward with your case after a consultation, your attorney will work with you to determine the best strategy. This strategy may involve going to court, or it may involve seeking a resolution that works for you outside of court.
As you go through the process of finding an attorney, please know that you deserve counsel that is compassionate, knowledgeable, and focused on your needs and interests as a client. This is about what happened to you, and your attorney is there to guide you. You should feel heard, understood, and respected.
When do you need to file?
You must file your claim by November 23, 2023.
Why would you file a lawsuit about what happened to you?
For many, if not most, people, surviving sexual abuse is not something that can be “fixed” by any kind of legal action. But the remedies available through civil suits can serve as a proxy for some measure of justice, and that proxy can enable survivors to move forward.
Successful ASA plaintiffs can recover economic, compensatory, and punitive damages from both the individual abuser and the institution. Many survivors suffer financial loss in addition to the mental, emotional, and physical harm of the abuse itself. Civil courts can make you financially whole and further compensate you for the pain of the experience and the efforts you must make to heal.