ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The six-month mark for the Child Victims Act and its one-year look back window has been reached. It gives victims time to file lawsuits in cases that may have surpassed the statute of limitations.
When the Child Victims Act passed through the New York State Senate last January, survivor Mary Ellen O’Loughlin was in the chamber.
“I was fortunate enough to be on the floor,” she said. “My reaction was it’s about time.”
The legislation was signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo the following month, and the one-year look back window allowing victims of child sexual abuse to file civil suits against their abusers, regardless of the statute of limitations, opened in August.
According to the Office of Court Administration, about 1,500 Child Victims Act cases have been filed since then. The Catholic Church and Boy Scouts of America are among some of the largest institutions victims have brought cases against.
But for some survivors like O’Loughlin, finding representation hasn’t been easy.
“I’ve had a very difficult time finding a lawyer and have been looking for six months,” she said.
O’Loughlin says she and her siblings were sexually abused by a family member beginning when she was 12 or 13 years old.
“In my case, and in many other situations similar to mine, where it’s a family based situation, there’s certainly very little to none financial opportunity for lawyers,” she said.
But she said the lack of financial gain doesn’t make her cases any less important.
“If the family or friend of the family, if those perpetrators are not identified through this civil window, then they can continue to abuse with no fear of retribution unless someone younger can come forward,” she said.
There is an effort among some lawmakers to extend the look back window by an additional year. Proponents say this will also provide extra time for victims to come forward.
“It takes time,” attorney Kat Thomas said. “It takes a person time to get the courage to seek the healing and recovery they deserve after years and sometimes decades of silence and shame. This is not enough process to come forward and step into the courtrooms.”
“There are still people who are unaware of the legislation,” O’Loughlin said. “They’re unaware of the opportunity or the legalities around it.”
O’Loughlin also hopes the state will consider allocating more money toward doing a public service announcement to get the word out.
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