Assemb. Linda Rosenthal, left, in Albany on June 4, 2019, and State...

Assemb. Linda Rosenthal, left, in Albany on June 4, 2019, and State Sen. Brad Hoylman in Manhattan on Aug. 18, 2019. Credit: AP / Hans Pennink; Charles Eckert

ALBANY — New Yorkers will have five more months to file child sexual abuse lawsuits under the Child Victims Act.

The “look-back” window to file lawsuits based on cases years old is now extended to Jan. 14 “to ensure that COVID-19 does not stand in the way of justice,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Friday in announcing his executive order.

The Child Victims Act temporarily suspends statutes of limitations for abuse charges and provides an opportunity for victims to file lawsuits against individuals and organizations.

Assemb. Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) said the measure was prompted by uncertainty about whether the look-back period would end as scheduled in August, or be extended to compensate for lost time under Cuomo’s PAUSE order issued March 20, which shut down most of the state's economy.

“I had spoken to different attorneys who believed the time that was paused would be tacked on to the end of August, and others thought maybe it wasn’t,” Rosenthal said in an interview. “Certainly many people have yet to come forward. They are just starting to deal with it emotionally, and finding an attorney, and finding paperwork and just coming to terms.”

State Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), co-sponsor of the law, said filing CVA cases “takes courage, focus and lots of time.”

“As the unemployment rate spikes above 14%, it's unreasonable to expect survivors of child sexual abuse to do the emotional and legal work necessary to file CVA lawsuits while simultaneously fighting to pay rent and put food on the table,” he said.

Rosenthal and Hoylman are also pursuing a further extension of the act for children to August 2021, and another bill to provide a window for the filing of sexual abuse cases against people who were 18 years or older when the children were abused.

Hoylman said the relatively few cases filed under the CVA since Aug. 14, 2019 in some counties shows a need to provide more time for victims to come forward. He said there have been fewer than four cases in 35 counties, including no cases filed in 13 counties.

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