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NY Adult Survivors Act: Allowing Victims of Every Age to Pursue Justice

Adult Survivors of Sex Crimes Must Be Allowed to Pursue Justice

By Taylor Rayfield

Survivors of childhood sexual assault now have an additional year to pursue justice in civil court against their accused abusers regardless of how long ago the incident happened. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently signed a 12-month extension to the decision in May by the legislature to keep that “look back” window open, beyond the statute of limitations restrictions. With the COVID-19 outbreak forcing court closures, the governor extended the window to August 2021.

The passage of the New York Child Victims Act (CVA) was a much-needed step toward helping victims who were too young to stand up for themselves, unable to fully comprehend how an adult in whom they placed their trust could do such immeasurable harm. The law allows survivors of child sexual abuse a one-year retroactive window in which to seek justice against their perpetrators. This move will help survivors who have not yet been ready to come forward. But the exclusion of adult survivors who also need a pathway to justice makes this hard-fought victory bittersweet.

Lawmakers must broaden that action even further to help victims of sexual abuse who are willing to come forward. Lawmakers must pass the Adult Survivors Act (S.681/A.8726).

Lawsuits filed in Onondaga County by two men against Conrad Mainwaring, a trusted track coach, counselor, and student advisor at several institutions shine the spotlight on why the Adult Survivors Act is critical for justice to be served.

Mainwaring, a former Olympic track star, preyed on dozens of young men while working at Camp Greylock, Nottingham High School, and Syracuse University. In many instances, Mainwaring lured young men to his University dorm, where he worked as a resident advisor, under the guise of physiotherapy and promises to make them stronger athletes. He was arrested in 2019 and is suspected in dozens of cases of child sexual assault.

Many of Mainwaring’s victims, who are now in their 50s, suffered the abuse when they were 18 and 19 years old. Because of their ages at the time, they don’t fall under the Child Victims Act, and the statute of limitations for the state of New York has passed. They’re in limbo. Or purgatory.

It’s taken years for these men to get to a place where they could go public with their pain. They both knew that by speaking up, they would have to relive what happened to them as young men. But not speaking up would mean that Mainwaring and others like him would never be held to pay for their unspeakable crimes – and that would be an even greater burden to bear.

Survivors of sexual abuse of any kind shouldn’t be penalized from seeking justice and restitution. The Adult Survivors Act makes sure victims of every age are heard and that institutions that allowed the abuse to happen are held accountable.

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