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Governor signs Adult Survivors Act, giving victims their day in court

Governor Kathy Hochul Credit: Gov. Hochul's Office
Governor Kathy Hochul Credit: Gov. Hochul's Office

ALBANY, NY (WSKG) - Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law Tuesday the Adult Survivors Act, which will give adults who are victims of sexual harassment and abuse the opportunity to face their alleged abusers in civil court.

Like the Child Victims Act, approved in 2019, the measure opens a one-year window of opportunity for survivors of sexual harassment and abuse who are past the statute of limitations to bring their case to court.

Governor Hochul, in a bill signing ceremony with survivors and legislative sponsors, says New Yorkers have waited long enough.

“Today is a good day, today is a righteous day,” Hochul said. “Because it is a victory for justice. And it is long overdue.”

In 2019, the statute of limitations in New York for filing a civil lawsuit in a rape case was extended to 20 years. But people who were abused before then did not have any legal recourse until now.

The measure passed unanimously, twice, in the State Senate. Sponsor Brad Hoylman says the measure extends to those who suffered abuse and harassment from famous figures, like the highly publicized Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein cases, to those who suffered at the hands of a close family member.

“To the predators who for decades have benefitted from New York’s prohibitively short statute of limitations, you know who you are,” Hoylman said. “The Adult Survivors Act will bring you to justice and make New York a safer place for all of us.”

The state Assembly was the final hold out, where some members were said to have “concerns”, approving the measure on Monday. Assembly Sponsor Linda Rosenthal says it should not have been as hard as it’s been to pass the bill.

“After fighting off their attackers and fighting to heal, they should not have had to fight so hard to convince the legislature to believe them,” Rosenthal said.

 Rosenthal credited survivors for pressing the issue.

Marissa Hoechstetter is among over 230 women who have reported abuse by former Columbia University gynecologist and fertility specialist Robert Hadden. She says at a time when the  Supreme Court is expected to strike down the abortion rights decision Roe v Wade, passing the adult survivors act is more important than ever.

“At a time when women’s bodily autonomy particularly is under attack, I think it says a lot about the values of New York to be a leader in survivor’s rights,” Hoechstetter said.

Drew Dixon, who has reported sexual abuse by hip-hop music mogul Russell Simmons, calls the new law “life-changing”.

“When you’re raped, a part of you disappears. When you’re sexually assaulted or harassed, your entire life becomes a crime scene,” Dixon said. “The practice of living in a world that doesn’t acknowledge your pain is toxic.”

Simmons denies the charges.

The one-year window for filing court cases is expected to begin in November.