How Victims of Sexual Assault In Prison Can Fight Back

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Up until recently, sexual assault victims by prison guards, fellow prison inmates, correctional officers, and others in the prison system were unable to take legal action if the statute of limitations expired. With the passage of the Adult Survivors Act, effective November 24, victims can now fight back against federal and state prisons.

The new legislation provides a one-time, one-year window for survivors of sexual abuse, prison rape, sexual victimization, and other criminal offenses to file civil suits after the statute of limitations for most criminal cases has expired.

California had passed similar legislation in September, called the Sexual Abuse and Cover Up Accountability Act, which similarly suspends the statute of limitations for civil claims of sexual assault and other vicarious offenses.

National Prison Rape Statistics

The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 requires the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) to perform an annual comprehensive statistical review and analysis of the incidence and effects of prison rape. The review must identify common characteristics of both victims and perpetrators of rape, prisons, and prison systems with a high incidence of prison rape. According to the BJS, an estimated 80,600 inmates (both male and female) experience sexual violence and sexual victimization in prison or jail every year. 

Sexual misconduct of female inmates in adult prisons is also widespread by corrections officers, as reported by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women. The difficulty is in pinpointing the exact number of victims and the extent of the criminal activity and abuse, as many women have hesitated to speak about the staff sexual misconduct they endured. Those who did speak out and sought mental health treatment for the abuse they suffered have largely been ignored — until now.

Abuse in the U.S. prison system has come to the forefront and being further exposed, reflected by the vast number of individuals who have now come forward in the wake of the Adult Survivors Act (and other similar legislation) with stories of sexual exploitation, forced sex, physical violence, abusive sexual contact, sexual harassment, and other sexual acts.

Inside the Adult Survivors Act

Anyone who was sexually assaulted as an adult in New York State and whose claim was previously barred by the statute of limitations will have one year from November 24, 2022 to file a retrospective civil lawsuit.

The look-back window under the Act will run through November 23, 2023.

When the one-year Adult Survivors Act window expires, the current statute of limitations will resume. Because not all sexual offenses are covered under the Act, it’s important to consult with a lawyer to see if you can file a case.

The money for victims will come from New York State’s $220 billion budget and potentially from about $500 million in reserve for unanticipated expenses.

Who Is Affected by the Adult Survivors Act?

Anyone who was sexually assaulted as an adult in New York State and whose claim has run out of time. Anyone over the age of 18 is considered an adult in New York.

What Type of Sex Offenses Fall Under the Adult Survivors Act?

The following is by no means an exhaustive list, but provides an indication of the types of sexual crimes that could be the basis for a civil suit:

  • rape in the first, second, and third degrees
  • sexual misconduct
  • sexual abuse in the first, second, and third degrees
  • persistent sexual abuse
  • forcible touching
  • aggravated sexual abuse in the first, second, third, and fourth degrees
  • criminal sexual act in the first, second, and third degrees
  • female genital mutilation
  • and others

An experienced attorney will discuss in more detail how the Adult Survivors Act works and what recourse is available against correctional facilities and perpetrators for incarcerated survivors.

Contact the Law Offices of Ronemus & Vilensky

If you have been sexually abused, a victim of sexual assault, rape, or any other sexual offense while incarcerated in a New York prison and at least 18 years of age at the time, contact the law firm of Ronemus & Vilensky, LLP, one of greater New York City’s most accomplished personal injury and sexual abuse law firms. We have the experience and expertise to help you navigate a civil suit under the Adult Survivors Act.

As indicated above, you have one year to file a lawsuit against your perpetrators. However, your case does not have to be resolved within the one-year window. You must initiate the legal process during the one-year window by filing a formal complaint in civil court. Contact us for a free consultation.