Nearly 3,800 Cases Brought Forward Thanks to New York’s Child Victims Act, Other States Must Follow Suit
The opening of a “window to justice” in New York has allowed nearly 3,800 lawsuits for child sexual abuse and cover-up to be filed, bringing forward critical information about active abusers and enablers in nearly every part of civil society, from schools to churches to youth camps. This staggering number of lawsuits speaks to the clear need in New York that allowed the Child Victims Act to be passed in the first place and should be a signal to lawmakers nationwide that opening up courtrooms to survivors can have benefits for their own states, too.
The 3797 lawsuits filed in New York benefit not only for survivors of abuse but also the communities where those crimes occurred in the past and may be occurring today. By allowing victims their day in court, critical information about still-living abusers and their enablers can be made public, helping parents better safeguard their children from those whose crimes were never before made public. We know from looking at cases within the Catholic Church that hundreds of admitted abusers live and work in unsuspecting communities nationwide. Civil windows opened by the Child Victim’s Act can help expose those individuals and keep children safer.
Similarly, by holding organizations and institutions accountable for crimes committed under their watch, reform like the Child Victim’s Act helps create an impetus for change, forcing those organizations to update policies, training protocols, and hiring processes, helping to change the culture that has allowed abuse to thrive. We know that institutions cannot change themselves and that external pressure is necessary. Civil reform can be that pressure.
Other states, such as New Jersey and California, passed similar reforms last year, but there is much work still to be done across the country. Lawmakers in every state should be looking for opportunities to reform laws that have allowed abuse to go unreported and unpunished and find ways to create openings for survivors to bring claims and information forward. Informed communities are safer communities, and there is no doubt that the Child Victim’s Act has helped create more informed communities. That success should be replicated nationwide.
CONTACT: Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (firstname.lastname@example.org, 517-974-9009)
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)