SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR) — No matter how many years have passed, people sexually abused as children will be able to sue the person responsible. On Wednesday, a one-year window for victims will open as part of the Child Victims Act.
Jennifer Nadler was just 12 years old when a family member sexually abused her. But when she was ready to say something, 14 years later, the statute of limitations ran out.
“At the time, I wasn’t focused on a civil suit. I used to say to my therapist that I would sue him for a dollar. Not because I want his money but more because I want everyone to know what he did and somehow hold him accountable,” Nadler said.
For the rest of time, the Child Victims Act extends the statute of limitations. Criminal cases can now be reported until the victim is 28 years old. For civil suits, until the survivor turns 55 years old. But for one year, starting Wednesday, a lookback window opens where victims can sue no matter how long ago the abuse happened.
“They need this money. They need it for all of the psychology visits that they’ve gone to, all of the co-pays for medication, there are life long health effects,” Nadler said.
It gets worse when victims have to relive the trauma through a legal process. When they’re ready, vera house has attorneys specifically trained for this.
“Evidence is going to be an issue in these cases and there’s nothing about the child victims act per say that changes the quantum of evidence that’s required for a case to move forward,” said Bryn Lovejoy-Grinnell, Vera House Director of Legal Services.
However, Nadler wants her fellow survivors to know a lack of evidence shouldn’t stop them from coming forward.
“I hope that survivors feel empowered but also know that what’s the right choice for one person may not be the right choice for another and that’s okay,” Nadler said.
Since the Child Victim’s Act passed in January of this year, Vera House has seen an increase in calls relating to child sexual abuse. They’re encouraging anyone who has questions or if they just need someone to talk to, to call their 24-hour hotline at (315) 468-3260.
After the window closes on Aug. 13 2020, victims have until they are 55 years old to file a civil suit, but only if the abuse happened after Feb. 14, 2019, which is when the law was passed.