Before victims filed claims, some targets of abuse lawsuits moved to shield assets

ALBANY — It could take years, and protracted legal battles, for victims of rape and sexual abuse to receive any compensation from the hundreds of lawsuits they began filing across the state last week against their alleged childhood predators or the organizations that employed them.

The lawsuits were among the first round of what are expected to be thousands of claims that will be filed in the coming year, after New York lifted its civil statute of limitations on sexual crimes and opened a one-year window for victims to sue those responsible.

The one-year period was enabled by the Child Victims Act, which was signed into law by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in February. Its ratification suddenly became a reality last November — after more than a decade of political gridlock in the state Legislature — when Democrats who long supported the measure seized control of the Senate chamber from Republicans.

That political shift also provided a months-long warning to abusers and the institutions that harbored them that the Democratic-controlled state Legislature may pass the measure, lowering a shield that had long protected the abusers from being sued for allegations dating back decades.

But any future judgments in favor of victims could become mired in protracted legal battles, especially if the defendants have taken steps to shield their assets or seek to use bankruptcy proceedings to minimize harm or delay payouts as they reorganize finances.

The Boy Scouts of America, like many Catholic institutions across the United States have done, is also considering bankruptcy protection as their organization and its state affiliates are increasingly becoming targets of sexual abuse lawsuits, according to attorneys handling the cases.

Sources close to a handful of Capital Region targets who are facing sexual abuse accusations, but who spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirm...

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