For the second year in a row, the state Senate unanimously approved the Adult Survivors Act, a bill that would create a window for adult victims of sexual assault to bring civil cases regardless of the statute of limitations. It follows up on the similar Child Victims Act, approved in 2019, which did the same for those assaulted as children.
Despite the broad bipartisan support, the legislation stalled in the Assembly last year. As victim advocates and lawmakers alike celebrated the state Senate’s action, attention has now shifted to the lower chamber to see if results this year will be any different.
Before lawmakers took the vote to approve the Adult Survivors Act, they and activists rallied in the state Capitol in celebration of the expected passage. Even state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins made an appearance at the event. “We all understand that we have an opportunity to make sure that people have justice, and people have some ability to hold people to account for assault, for harm they’ve experienced,” Stewart-Cousins said, expressing her hope that the bill would “cross the finish line” this year.
Whether or not that happens now falls to the Assembly, where the legislation failed in the past. Last year, it never even made it out of committee, let alone to the floor for a vote. At the time, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie did not speak publicly about why the bill didn’t move. Since then, the legislation has gained even more bipartisan sponsors.
Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, the sponsor of the Adult Survivors Act, attended the celebratory rally as well, where she offered a message to her chamber. “To the Assembly, the People’s House: The Adult Survivors Act must pass this session,” she said. “Continued delay only protects predators, and survivors have already waited too long for justice.” Rosenthal thanked the more than 70 sponsors who have signed onto the bill, as well as those who have told her that they would vote in favor.
Asked after the rally by City & State what has changed since the failure last year, Rosenthal pointed to the bipartisan support and increased number of co-sponsors – although as the unanimous state Senate vote last year indicated, it had support from both sides of the aisle even then. And she couldn’t say what prevented the bill from coming to the floor last year. “I don’t know, I guess some different factors, but I’m just concentrating on getting it done,” Rosenthal said.
Right now, the Adult Survivors Act sits in the Judiciary Committee, where it has not yet been placed on an agenda for consideration. A spokesperson for committee Chair Assembly Member Charles Lavine did not return a request for comment before publication time, nor did a spokesperson for Heastie.
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