On Friday, February 28, 2020, just days after the verdict in the Weinstein case, survivors of sexual assault, including models Ambra Battilana-Gutierrez and Dominique Huett joined lawmakers and other advocates to call for the Adult Survivors Act (ASA): legislation that would provide a one year look back window for any time-barred survivor (18+) of sexual abuse to sue his/her abuser or the institution that may have protected them, in civil court, even if the statute of limitations has expired. The ASA (S.6810/A.8726) was introduced into the New York State legislature in October 2019 by Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal.
The ASA is modeled on the Child Victims Act which passed the Legislature and was signed into law last year, allowing survivors of childhood sexual abuse with expired claims one year to sue in civil court. Six months into the window, over 1,600 claims have already been filed through the Child Victims Act.
“Right after Harvey Weinstein sexually assaulted me, I did everything you’re supposed to do as a victim of a crime: I immediately filed a claim with the NYPD. At their direction, I recorded Weinstein admitting to the assault and apologizing to me. Yet the criminal justice system failed me. I, and countless other women, need the Adult Survivors Act which creates a look-back window to right the wrongs of a system that favors rich and powerful men over the women they abuse. We deserve a chance,” said Ambra Battilana-Gutierrez, a member of the Model Alliance’s Leadership Council.
The ASA would apply to survivors who were abused under Article 130 crimes, which includes rape 2 and 3, criminal sex acts, and incest offenses in Section 255, among others. Last year, Albany lawmakers, recognizing that the statute of limitations were artificially low and not in line with what experts understand about trauma, voted to extend the civil statute of limitations for the several felony offenses including rape in the second and third degrees prospectively to 20 years. But for many adult sexual assault survivors who were abused prior to 2019, they had only between 1-3 years to file a civil lawsuit. The ASA would provide a pathway to justice for survivors with expired claims. Similar to the Child Victims Act, the ASA would also waive the 90-day notice of claim requirement to bring a case against a public institution.
"When Harvey Weinstein assaulted me in 2010, I felt like reporting the crime would not be taken seriously because of the power dynamics that existed where victims are often blamed and discredited. It took me seven years to feel safe in filing a police report and only after I had the testimony of other witnesses published in the New York Times. These crimes are complicated and it often takes people time to process what coming forward means to their lives. The Adult Survivors Act should be passed to afford survivors more time for access to justice,” said model and actress Dominique Huett.
Hoylman and Rosenthal both sponsored the Child Victims Act, which enacted a long-awaited statute of limitation reform - both prospectively and retrospectively -- for survivors of child sexual abuse.
According to the science of trauma, it can take survivors years -- even decades -- to process sexual abuse. When those survivors are ready to come forward, it may be too late due to the restrictive statute of limitations on sex crimes. For some survivors who may have reported within the statute of limitation, but fail to get a resolution in the criminal justice system the ASA provides a further pathway to justice.
“The Model Alliance believes in real consequences for abusers and that all survivors of sexual abuse deserve the opportunity to have their day in court. Thanks to the bravery and tenacity of models, including Ambra Gutierrez and Dominique Huett, survivors’ voices are finally being heard. We proudly stand in coalition with our partners to call for the passage of the Adult Survivors Act,” said Sara Ziff, Founder and Executive Director of the Model Alliance.
In addition to the Model Alliance, the coalition includes Safe Horizon, the YWCA of Brooklyn, Know Your IX, the Sexual Harassment Working Group, the Joyful Heart Foundation, Housing Works, The Violence Intervention Project, the Women’s Prison Association, the Crime Victims Treatment Center, ACR-Health and the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
Learn more about the Adult Survivors Act here.