Have You Experienced Sexual Assault Or Abuse?

The New York Adult Survivors Act Has Ended. What's Next?

The Adult Survivors Act provided a new justice opportunity to those who experienced sexual assault, such as forced sex acts or harassment. As the act ends in New York State, survivors of sexual abuse and assault find themselves wondering whether they’ve lost the chance to hold offenders accountable. Helping Survivors of Sexual Abuse & Assault is here to help you understand your rights and options.

If you are a survivor of sexual assault or abuse, you deserve the chance to pursue justice whether you were an adult or a child when it happened.

Accountability has not always been possible for survivors of sexual offenses such as rape, attempted rape, forced sexual acts, or inappropriate touching. The statute of limitations for these types of offenses is longer now than it used to be, but survivors of adult sexual abuse still have a limited window in which legal action is possible.

The Adult Survivors Act opened that window for all who experienced sexual assault or abuse as an adult in New York. No matter when the incident occurred, victims could bring lawsuits before the courts and hold offenders accountable. That open period ended in November 2023.

At Helping Survivors of Sexual Abuse & Assault, we believe every survivor deserves justice and healing. Let us help you understand what the expiration of the Adult Survivors Act means and what options you might have in its wake.

What was the Adult Survivors Act?

The Adult Survivors Act is a New York State law that opened a one-year window for filing claims against sexual assault or abuse offenders, including the perpetrators of non-consensual sex, unwanted touching, or unwelcome sexual comments. Under the act, someone who had experienced an assault incident when they were over the age of 18 could file a lawsuit against the alleged offender, no matter how long it had been since the abuse occurred.

What Prompted This Historic Law?

Before the Adult Survivors Act, survivors of sexual abuse and assault had a severely limited time frame to file lawsuits against their perpetrators. The statute of limitations for some sexual offenses was stuck at five years for decades.

In 2019, the New York State Senate passed a law extending the statute of limitations to 10 or 20 years, depending on the charge. Many survivors had a newly won ability to seek justice, but it was still too late for many others.

The Adult Survivors Act opened the court system for survivors who experienced abuse outside the new statute of limitations. For one year, it was not too late for a survivor of abuse in 1999, 1989, or much earlier.

What About the New York Child Victims Act?

The New York Child Victims Act passed in February of 2019, seven months before the state senate extended the statute of limitations for adult survivors. It enabled survivors of childhood sexual assault to file civil lawsuits until the victims reached age 55 and extended the criminal prosecution window to age 23.

The Child Victims Act also provided a one-year “lookback” window with no age limit. This action opened doors for many child sex abuse lawsuits. However, it left behind those who had reached age 18 before their abuse happened.

The Adult Survivors Act was passed partially in response to this gap in justice. College students, professionals, and elders were no longer “left behind” simply because they were older than 17 when someone touched, threatened, or assaulted them.

Last Date Modified
February 26, 2024
Content Reviewed By:

Kathryn Kosmides
Managing Director | Helping Survivors

Who Could File a Lawsuit Under the Adult Survivors Act?

The Adult Survivors Act allowed lawsuits from individuals who experienced sexual offenses when they were 18 years or older. Under state law, sexual offenses include but are not limited to:

  • Sexual contact with someone physically or mentally unable to consent
  • Physically forced sexual activity
  • Forced touching
  • Rape, any degree
  • Unwanted penetration with a finger or foreign object

Although the Adult Survivors Act has ended, many survivors can still file suit against sexual assault or abuse offenders, depending on the charge and its statute of limitations. For example, a survivor of rape in the second degree may file within 20 years of the incident or 10 years from an official report.

In New York, there is currently no statute of limitations for first-degree rape. If you experienced this type of sexual crime, you can file a lawsuit at any time.

Don’t feel intimidated by complex and detailed descriptions of sexual crimes. If you are a survivor of a sexual assault, Helping Survivors can assist you in understanding your rights and options for seeking justice.

Who Could Plaintiffs Sue Under the Adult Survivors Act?

The Adult Survivors Act allowed victims to file suit against the perpetrators of alleged sexual abuse acts or the institutions that protected those perpetrators. An institution may include any organization that was aware or could be aware of abuse. Such institutions may include schools, colleges, hospitals, houses of worship, and employers.

Many Adult Survivors Act lawsuits stood up against prisons, jail systems, and medical providers. Some of these sexual offense actions involved hundreds of victims. Others involved one plaintiff against a single individual or small employer.

If someone caused you sexual harm, whether they forced you to perform a sexual act or performed such an act on you against your will, they are responsible. So are individuals or groups that should have protected you against such individuals. Reach out to us at Helping Survivors to learn what you can do, even after the Adult Survivors Act.

What Compensation Could Victims Receive From an Adult Survivors Act Claim?

Victims of sexual offenses in New York State may receive compensation for related expenses. This compensation may cover:

  • Medical expenses
  • Mental health care
  • Other services costs
  • Lost earnings
  • Attorney fees
  • Relevant pain and suffering
Potential compensation depends wholly on the situation and its impact on the victim. One highly publicized lawsuit related to the Adult Survivors Act led to a $5 million settlement.

Compensation may still be available for survivors whose permanent statutes of limitations remain active. For example, if you survived a second-degree rape when you were in college in the late 2010s and have not yet reported the incident, the statute of limitations is likely still open for you. Consider seeking legal counsel as soon as possible, as things can move slowly through the courts.

When Did the Adult Survivors Act Lookback Window End?

The Adult Survivors Act became effective in New York on November 24, 2022, and ended on November 24, 2023. After that date, the statute of limitations enacted in 2019 became active again.

Although the Adult Survivors Act “lookback window” has ended, many survivors are still eligible to pursue compensation. It’s essential to understand your rights and the resources available to you. Even if you believe the statute of limitations has expired, you may have legal or financial options. The first step is to connect with a compassionate and knowledgeable expert who puts you first.

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Understand your legal rights and options as a survivor of sexual assault and abuse.