Between 2019 and 2021, there were 10,800 cases filed under the Child Victims Act which was a law that re-opened the statute of limitations for children who were sexually abused, sometimes many decades ago. Now there is the Adult Survivors Act, a new law that will help survivors who were victimized in years past at or after the age of 18 years old. New York State expects many more cases to be filed under the Adult Survivors Act as thousands attempt to seek money damages for sexual assault experienced outside and within a workplace setting.
You have waited a long time to get justice for your sexual harassment or assault, and during this time, you may have felt immense pressure to stay quiet about the abuse you endured. The last thing you want is to lose compensation because you do not have a strong enough case. Before you begin, it is important to understand New York’s definition of sexual abuse and sexual violence/assault.
Have you or a family member suffered the horror of any physical force of a sexual nature? The attorneys at The Coppola Firm could potentially help you bring forth your lawsuit and file a civil case for money damages against your abuser. To learn more about how we may help you receive justice for the awful crimes done to you, call our personal injury attorneys at 716-839-9700.
What is the Adult Survivors Act?
On May 24, 2022, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul signed the Adult Survivors Act (ASA), S.66A, into law. This state law permits anyone who suffered sexual coercion, certain forms of sexual harassment, or another sex offense after their 18th birthday to file a timely claim to receive compensation for their injuries and suffering.
This law creates a one-year window of time for “the revival of time-barred civil lawsuits” for people who were victims of sex crimes and were 18 years of age or older. This law is comparable to the Child Victims Act, which assisted thousands of New Yorkers who suffered child sexual abuse to seek justice against individuals who hurt them. Prior to the signing of the ASA, adult victims of sexual assault had three years to 20 years to file a civil claim, depending upon the nature of the conduct against them. This new law empowers victims who did not initially come forward to be empowered to do so during the one-year period as outlined by the law. It does not matter how long ago the assault occurred.
The current window for victims to file a claim is November 24, 2022 to November 24, 2023. Victims of sexual assault are permitted to file two types of lawsuits under this new law: intentional and negligent.
What Sexual Offenses Are Covered Under the Adult Survivors Act?
Individuals suffering any physical, emotional, mental health, or other injuries as the result of sexual offenses committed against them can now sue their abusers and others that failed to act on their behalf, including employers and other institutions.
Although this new law allows civil cases (lawsuits where we try to recover money damages for the survivor), the definitions of what types of lawsuits are considered sexual abuse comes from the criminal law. There are many forms of sexual assault that New York State classifies as criminal acts or sexual abuse cases. New York distinguishes between several different sexual offenses, which include rape, sexual assault, incest, oral sex, sodomy, sexual misconduct, female genital mutilation, and forcible touching, to name just a few. Sexual acts covered under the ASA are those defined under Article 130 of NY Penal Law, or incest, as defined in Sections 255.26 or Section 255.27.
What is the Difference Between Sexual Assault and Sexual Abuse Under New York Law?
New York State is specific in its definitions of sex crimes. The ASA relies on New York’s criminal law to explain what types of acts are sexual abuse, and the definition is much broader than simply rape or forced intercourse.
The trauma-informed trained lawyers at The Coppola Firm will listen carefully to you, and we can explain whether you can bring a civil claim for money damages under the circumstances unique to your case.
In NYS, “sexual assault” is a broad term describing any sex crimes involving nonconsensual touching (and fondling) or any type of contact of a sexual nature that occurs. Rape, statutory rape, sexual abuse, predatory sexual assault, and any criminal sexual act fall under New York sexual assault laws.
Sexual abuse occurs when an assailant forces their victim to have sexual contact without their consent. Sexual contact includes any type of unwanted sexual advances.
Is Sexual Assault Covered by the Adult Survivors Act?
The ASA encompasses all types of sexual behaviors and offenses. The following is a list of the types of sexual assault and sex crimes New York State lists in its penal codes (alphabetized).
- Aggravated Sexual Abuse, First Degree
- Aggravated Sexual Abuse, Second Degree
- Aggravated Sexual Abuse, Third Degree
- Aggravated Sexual Abuse in the Fourth Degree
- Criminal Sexual Act, First Degree
- Criminal Sexual Act, Second Degree
- Criminal Sexual Act, Third Degree
- Facilitating a Sex Offense With a Controlled Substance
- Female Genital Mutilation
- Forcible Touching
- Incest in the First Degree
- Incest in the Second Degree
- Persistent Sexual Abuse
- Rape, First Degree
- Rape, Second Degree
- Rape, Third Degree
- Sexual abuse, First Degree
- Sexual Abuse, Second Degree
- Sexual Abuse, Third Degree
The New York Senate fully outlines these sexual offenses with detailed information about unlawful sexual activity. Generally, any type of sexual contact in the genital area or private areas of a person’s body that is unwanted can potentially be a wrongful sex act.
What Are the Different Types of Sexual Abuse in New York?
New York State’s ASA relies on New York’s criminal law definitions of sexual abuse. The criminal law differentiates between sexual abuse, persistent sexual abuse, and aggravated sexual abuse.
Sexual Abuse (1st Degree)
An individual can be charged with this Class D Felony if they subject another person to sexual contact by forcible compulsion, the victim is incapable of consent due to being physically helpless, under the age of 11, or when the victim is 13 years old and the assailant is 21 years or older.
Sexual Abuse (2nd Degree)
Individuals perpetrating this Class A misdemeanor against their victims can be charged with sexual abuse in the second degree if they subject another individual to sexual contact when their victim is incapable of consent “by reason of some other factor other than being less than seventeen years old” or is under 14 years of age.
Sexual Abuse (3rd Degree)
Individuals can be charged with this Class B misdemeanor after subjecting an individual to sexual contact without their consent. The law heavily takes the age of both the victim and the abuser into consideration when issuing a charge of sexual abuse in the third degree.
Aggravated Sexual Abuse
Aggravated sexual abuse has four degrees. The law designates the exact degree of this crime by considering the severity of the crime and the type of sex acts the perpetrator forces on their victim.
- First-degree aggravated sexual abuse is a Class B Felony.
- Second-degree aggravated sexual abuse is a Class C Felony.
- Third-degree aggravated sexual abuse is a Class D Felony.
- Fourth-degree aggravated sexual abuse is a Class E Felony.
New York takes sexual abuse and other types of sexual harassment very seriously, including sex crimes that occur under domestic violence circumstances.
Persistent Sexual Abuse
Under NYS Penal Code § 130.53, persistent sexual abuse is a Class E Felony. A person is charged with this crime if they have committed a specified sex act and, within the previous 10 years before the crime, were convicted of the same or one of a few specified crimes two or more times previously.
How Does the Adult Survivors Act Impact My Sexual Abuse Case?
The Adult Survivors Act only covers acts that were committed against people over the age of 18. Sadly, in the many decades prior to today, women (and men) were subjected to unlawful sexual behaviors that were unwanted. But, often, these victims felt as though they could not speak or have their voices heard. The #metoo efforts have changed all of this, and survivors are now empowered to get civil damages if their claims meet the law’s standards.
If you are a survivor, even if the unwanted behavior occurred many years ago, the lawyers at The Coppola Firm can help you bring a civil lawsuit. It is important to speak to a knowledgeable attorney as soon as possible. There is currently only a one-year window where you can file for crimes committed outside the statute of limitations and that window begins in November 2022.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Civil Sexual Assault Cases in New York?
In civil cases, many states impose a statute of limitations. What this means is victims can file a civil claim for money damages against their perpetrators within a specific period. Right now, as of November 2022, we have a one-year window where we can bring a civil money damages suit on behalf of adult survivors of sexual assault – but that window will close in 2023.
It is best to speak to an experienced attorney who is well-versed in New York State laws regarding sexual harassment and other sexual-related offenses as soon as possible. What you tell your attorney is confidential, and it is important to know your options even if you are not ready to come forward.
Why Should I Hire a Civil Sexual Assault Attorney?
While criminal law is one way to address this unlawful behavior, many survivors are understandably wary of the criminal justice system. In New York, though, you now are permitted under this new law to choose to file a civil suit and sue for money damages, even if the wrongful conduct happened years ago. Having a civil sexual assault attorney advocating for you can do wonders for your case. As a victim, you may be entitled to money damages because of physical injuries, pain and suffering, emotional distress, punitive damages, and more.
Do Not Miss Your Chance to Seek Justice
Under the ASA, you have one year to file a civil case for money damages against your abuser. Even if the wrongs against you were committed years ago in college, in the workplace, or elsewhere, you can still obtain justice for the pain and suffering you have endured. You can sue the perpetrator and anyone responsible for their behavior, such as their employer, a school, a religious institution, or another organization. So now is your time to finally get compensated for your trauma.
The compassionate and understanding attorneys at The Coppola Firm are here for you. We are a woman-owned law firm with many decades of experience. Call us today at 716-839-9700 or fill out our contact form to learn just how we can help you. We are incredibly passionate about seeking justice for sexual abuse victims, and we promise to be sensitive to your situation while also fighting diligently to win your case.