Due to the traumatic nature of child sexual abuse, survivors often live in silence. Whether because of fear, shame, or repressed memories, child sexual abuse frequently goes unreported within the statutory period, leaving those injured without recourse. However, under a new law called the Child Victims Act (“CVA”), which goes into effect on August 14, 2019, survivors of child sexual abuse can pursue criminal charges until they turn 28, and file a civil lawsuit before age 55. Additionally, for one year, all causes of action relating to child sexual abuse that would traditionally have been barred by the statute of limitations are revived. Before the CVA, New York had one of the country’s most restrictive statutes of limitations; cases of child sexual abuse could not be prosecuted more than five years after they occurred, and civil lawsuits had to be brought within three years after the survivor’s 18th birthday. The new law gives survivors of child sexual abuse in New York the opportunity to bring their abusers to justice.
Jeffrey Epstein, a financier, politically-connected billionaire, and convicted sex offender now faces federal charges for his alleged role in a sex trafficking ring that is believed to have included dozens of underage girls, with some victims as young as 14 years old. Epstein is accused of paying cash to young girls to have sex with him between 2002 and 2005 in his Manhattan home and Palm Beach estate. Epstein pleaded not guilty on Monday, July 15, 2019, arguing that his alleged conduct was covered by a controversial non-prosecution agreement that he signed with federal prosecutors in Miami, Florida in 2007.
Even if the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York is unsuccessful in prosecuting criminal charges against Epstein, thanks to the CVA, survivors can still seek justice. Most lawsuits brought by Epstein’s survivors would otherwise have been barred by the statute of limitations.