- A New York law will give sexual assault survivors a year to sue beyond the statute of limitations.
- The Adult Survivors Act will go into effect on Thanksgiving Day and will likely lead to a slew of cases.
- Insider spoke to a future litigant who says she was sexually assaulted by a prison guard in 1997.
A prison guard walked into the women’s dormitory at the now closed Bayview Correctional Facility in Manhattan and patted BV, who was sleeping in a bunk bed, on the shoulder.
“I need you to go clean the bathroom.” he told her, according to BV’s recollection of the 1997 exchange.
BV asked if she could do it in the morning, but the guard insisted. So she went to the bathroom, got down on her knees and started cleaning the toilet. Moments later, the guard entered the bathroom, unzipped her and forced BV to perform oral sex on her, she said in an interview with Insider, 25 years after the alleged assault.
“I was gagged and crying,” BV said. She said she considered screaming to wake the other women, but didn’t.
Now, for the first time since the attack, she is preparing to hold her alleged attacker accountable.
The New York Adult Survivors Act gives women a one-year window from Thursday to file a lawsuit against an alleged abuser and other parties responsible for sexual assaults committed at any time in their adult life, from 18 years old in New York State. York.
A notable lawsuit expected under the new law is against former President Donald Trump.
A lawyer representing former Elle columnist E. Jean Carroll said she plans to sue Trump for assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress under the ASA.
Carroll accused Trump in 2019 of sexually assaulting her in a dressing room in the mid-1990s, but so far has only sued for defamation based on his response to her allegation.
Claims like Carroll’s are normally barred because they fall outside the statute of limitations, which in New York was increased in 2019 to 20 years for civil suits involving certain sex crimes. This barrier will now be temporarily lifted and there is no damage cap.
BV, who asked to be identified by her initials for confidentiality reasons, never reported her sexual assault, she said, because she was traumatized and felt she had no other choice.
The guard who she says sexually assaulted her told her at the time that if she told anyone he would revoke her weekend privileges, allowing her to leave the facility to visit his family.
“Most women just want to move on,” said Anna Kull, partner of Levy Konigsberg who represents BV “And that’s why it’s important to have longer statutes of limitations, because by the time a survivor of sexual assault is ready to face what happened to him and is ready to bring it to the attention of the justice system and to initiate legal proceedings, it may be too late.”
No institution is safe
Kull said she expects hundreds of women who were previously incarcerated to come forward under the new law.
Each year from 2015 to 2019, there were hundreds of reports of alleged sexual misconduct or abuse at New York City Department of Corrections and Community Supervision facilities, according to data released by the agency. .
“You really wouldn’t believe how many women have been sexually assaulted in the New York State prison system,” Kull said.
But she added that her firm also expects lawsuits against medical providers, institutions and individual doctors. And Lawrence Pearson, a partner at Wigdor LLP, told Insider that some of the lawsuits he expects will be brought against teachers and educational institutions, hospitals and religious centers.
“These cases not only name and hold accountable the individuals who engaged in the sexual assault or other sexually abusive behavior, but also name the organizations, whether employers or other organizations who enabled or covered up the men who engaged in abusive behavior,” Pearson said.
In a statement to Insider, the DOCCS said it has “zero tolerance for sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and unauthorized relationships” and “thoroughly investigate all reports of sexual victimization.”
The New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association, the organization that represents security service personnel across the state, declined to comment.
A restricted window
The one-year window under the ASA means there is a limited period to sue.
A similar law, the Child Victims Act, was passed in 2019 and gave survivors of childhood sexual abuse in New York City one year to file complaints that would otherwise have passed the statute of limitations.
Then-Governor. Andrew Cuomo extended the window for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing thousands more lawsuits. Nearly 11,000 lawsuits were filed during the two years of the Child Victims Act.
The CVA could provide insight into the number of lawsuits that will be filed in response to the ASA this year, Pearson said.
“Under the ASA, the Adult Survivors Act, which covers people who were not minors when they were sexually abused or assaulted, you’re clearly talking about a much larger population of potential complainants and people who have been assaulted or abused,” he said. “And so, it’s very possible that the volume of claims [will be] multiples of what the Child Victims Act was, even over two years, in the year that the look-back period under the ASA will last. »
Imani’s Safehouse, a New York-based organization that supports incarcerated women, works to educate sexual assault survivors about ASA.
Founder Jennifer Fecu told Insider that some women have said they can’t remember the name of their abuser or have expressed reluctance to relive the trauma of their abuse. Others were in disbelief that the ASA really existed, Fecu said.
BV told Insider that she had no idea the ASA existed until she stumbled upon it while researching cases of police brutality.
A lack of awareness among survivors, coupled with the limited time frame, likely indicates that only a fraction of sexual abuse survivors will pursue filing lawsuits, attorneys told Insider.
“I don’t care how many cases a company has — it’s a small percentage of the actual number of women who experience sexual assault,” Kull said.
Yet the ASA still offers some hope to many, including BV
“I can’t believe they’re actually trying to show respect for the things that were done to us,” BV said.