Adult survivors of sexual abuse can now sue their abusers in New York — even if the statute of limitations for their claims has expired — under a state law that takes effect Thursday.
The new law empowers adult survivors of sexual assault one year to file a lawsuit against their perpetrators. It also allows people who were sexually assaulted at work or in the care of an institution such as a hospital or prison to sue that entity, said attorney Doug Wigdor, who helped push for the law.
“I think there will be some very interesting cases that arise in employment cases where powerful men who supervised women or supervised women sexually assaulted them, and they will be able to hold their perpetrator accountable, but also their employers,” Wigdor said. , who represented women who testified against movie mogul Harvey Weinsteinwhose convictions in New York for rape and criminal sexual acts were upheld this year.
A lawsuit filed early Thursday under the new law aims to hold former President Donald Trump responsible for allegedly raping then-magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll in the mid-1990s. Trump has denied the allegations.
New window for filing lawsuits in New York gives adult sexual assault survivors who may not have been able to process what happened to them more time to seek appealssaid Jane Manning, a former sex-crime prosecutor and now head of the state’s Women’s Equal Justice Project.
The measure mirrors the 2019 Child Victims Act for two years temporarily extended New York’s statute of limitations in child sexual abuse cases, bringing nearly 11,000 cases, said New York State Office of Court Administration spokesman Lucian Chalfen.
“Sexual assault is a very traumatizing crime. Trauma itself takes time to process,” Manning said. “Add to that the fact that our culture has filled many of us with rape myths about what real rape looks like, which do not match real sexual assault that happens in real life.
“Because of that, there are survivors who don’t even identify what happened to them as sexual assault until some time has passed. And there can be a lot of self-blame to contend with, even if that self-blame is completely unjustified,” said she.
Giving adult survivors of sexual assault an opportunity to seek redress through the civil justice system is important, as they are often failed by the criminal justice system, Manning said.
“Too often in the criminal justice system, we still have too many prosecutors who refuse to take sex crime cases to trial simply because they think they will be hard to win,” she said. “That is not a good reason to refuse to take a case of sexual crimes to court. But that’s one reason survivors are still hearing from too many accusers.”
Separate lawsuits under the new law are expected to be filed on behalf of more than 750 women who claim they have been sexually assaulted in New York State prisons, attorney Adam Slater said.
“The prisoner-guard relationship is one of the most extreme power imbalances that exists today,” Slater said. “Under New York State law, a person in custody is legally incapable of consent. Officers and guards in these facilities have an unparalleled arsenal of methods to exert their will on victims: physical confinement, force, restraint of privileges and total control over their surroundings.”
New York’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision has “zero tolerance for sexual abuse, sexual harassment and unauthorized relationships,” the agency said in a statement, noting that it “carefully investigates all reports of sexual victimization, including unauthorized relationships, and retaliation against any persons reporting incidents or cooperating with these investigations.
“Staff have an affirmative duty to report any knowledge, suspicion or information regarding a case of sexual abuse or sexual harassment and any unauthorized relationship,” it said. “Individuals who violate the Department’s rules are disciplined by the Department and when there is evidence that a crime has been committed, DOCCS refers those cases for prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.”
When asked for comment, the New York attorney general’s office referred CNN to the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
Carroll on Thursday sued Trump for battery and defamation under the new law. It is the other suit she has filed a lawsuit against him and the first to seek to hold Trump liable for battery for allegedly raping Carroll 27 years ago in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room. The suit also asserts a new defamation claim based on statements Trump made last month.
“Trump’s underlying sexual assault seriously injured Carroll, causing significant pain and suffering, lasting psychological harm, loss of dignity, and invasion of her privacy. His latest defamatory statement has only added to the harm Carroll had already suffered,” the suit alleges. .
Carroll is asking a judge to order Trump to retract his defamatory statements and award compensatory, punitive and exemplary damages in an amount to be determined by a jury trial.
Trump has refused all claims against him.
More lawsuits are expected on behalf of about 40 more women with new claims against a Columbia University gynecologist, Dr. Robert Hadden, said attorney Anthony DiPietro, who represented 230 women who had allegedly been sexually abused by Hadden. Almost 150 of these cases was decided before the Adult Survivors Act came into force.
Hadden will stand trial next year on six counts of luring and luring victims to his New York medical offices and subjecting them to illegal sexual abuse from about 1993 to 2012, prosecutors have said; Hadden has pleaded not guilty.