In 2019, the state of New York passed legislation extending the statute of limitations for civil causes of action for certain sex offenses from three years to 20 years. However, that law was prospective only. Now, New York is providing recourse for sexual assault survivors whose civil claims have expired. On May 24, 2022, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed the Adult Survivors Act (ASA) into law. A so-called “revival statute,” the ASA provides a one year window for adult sexual assault survivors to bring otherwise time-barred civil claims against their alleged abusers and other responsible parties, including public and private institutions, such as the individual perpetrator’s employer.
In this month’s column, we discuss the backdrop for the passage of the ASA and present an overview of the law, as well as another statute with a revival window on the horizon—New York City’s Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Law. We also offer practical suggestions for employers to consider in anticipation of lawsuits which may be filed once the ASA’s revival window opens this fall.
Since the #MeToo movement gained nationwide momentum in 2017, many commentators have observed that often victims of sexual misconduct do not come forward at the time of the offense. See, e.g., Kaelyn Forde, Why more Women don’t Report Sexual Assaults, ABC News (Sept. 27, 2018). This happens for a variety of reasons, including confusion, shame, or fear of victim-blaming, retaliation, not being believed, or potential career and community repercussions. A common thread among the reasons victims do not bring claims is the existence of power dynamics where the perpetrator holds economic or other influence over their victim that coerces the victim not to seek redress.