Unclear fate for bill to give abuse survivors chance to sue

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The fate of a bill to give people sexually abused as adults a chance to sue the perpetrators was unclear Thursday when it unanimously passed the state Senate without public support from the Assembly’s top leaders.

The Senate passed the bill Thursday with a 62-0 vote, echoing the chamber’s 2019 unanimous passage of a similar bill for survivors of childhood abuse.

“Government has a responsibility to stand up for the survivors of these crimes,” Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat, tweeted. “I am proud that we are taking that next step by providing the same justice to those who were 18 years of age or older when these crimes were committed.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s office has not responded to repeated requests by The Associated Press for comment on the Adult Survivors Act.

The bill’s Assembly sponsor, Linda Rosenthal, a Democrat, said she’s going to keep pushing for the chamber to pass the bill before the Legislature wraps up its session next week.

“I keep advocating for it and trying to get it out of the judiciary committee,” Rosenthal said. “That’s what I’m going to do keep doing until the end of session.”

The legislation would give abuse survivors a one-year window in which to bring lawsuits that would otherwise be barred by the state’s statute of limitations.

Susan Dooha, executive director for the Center for the Independence of the Disabled, said the bill gives people more time to process abuse and overcome fears of coming forward.

“People with disabilities have experienced abuse by doctors or therapists,” Dooha said in a statement. “They have been silent because they needed treatment and had a limited number of practitioners available to them.”

Supporters said they haven’t heard any organized opposition to the bill.

“There might be some that are working behind the scenes, but I haven’t spoken to any institutions or lobbyists or people who are working against it,” Rosenthal said.

That’s in contrast to the Child Victims Act, which passed after years of resistance from the Catholic Church, Boy Scouts of America and insurance companies.

More than 5,200 New Yorkers have filed lawsuits against abusers under the Child Victims Act, according to Rosenthal and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Brad Hoylman.

It’s unclear how many of those lawsuits ended in favor of victims.