- Adults who were sexually abused as children and did not take legal action within the statute of limitations now have a one-year window to sue their abusers thanks to a new law that went into effect in New York.
- The law, called the Child Victims Act, also expands the statute of limitations so that victims can sue until they are 55 years old, as opposed to the previous limitation which was set at 23 years old.
- Institutions like the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts are preparing to take massive financial hits.
Child Victims Act Goes Into Effect
Adult victims who were sexually abused as children but did not take legal action in the required time period will now be given a year to sue their abusers under a new law in New York that went into effect Wednesday.
The one-year period, known as a look-back window, will let victims bring forward cases that may have expired decades ago under the previous statute of limitations. The victims will also be able to sue any institutions or organizations that allowed the abuse or were complicit.
Until now, New York had one of the most restrictive statutes of limitations for child sex abuse victims in the country. Under the previous statute, people who had been sexually abused as minors had to file charges by the time they were just 23 years old.
However, the new law, called the Child Victims Act, extends that time limit so that accusers can sue until they are 55.
The Child Victims Act is a big move for New York, but it has also been a long time coming. Lawmakers in New York’s legislature have been trying to extend the statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims for more than a decade.
Every time they tried, they were stopped by opposition from the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, Orthodox Jewish organizations, as well as the insurance industry. The biggest sticking point for those groups was the look-back window, which they claimed would create a huge financial burden for them.
Before the law passed, the New York Catholic Conference claimed the look-back window would “force institutions to defend alleged conduct decades ago about which they have no knowledge and in which they had no role.”
New York’s State Assembly had passed the law several times, but the State Senate kept preventing a vote. Then Democrats took over the state’s Senate in November, and the bill passed the Senate unanimously right after they took office in January.
Organizations Brace for Financial Hit
According to reports, hundreds and maybe thousands of lawsuits are expected to be filed just on the first day the window takes effect.
Now, many of the major institutions like the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts that had opposed the law because of the financial questions are bracing for the impact.
The Catholic Archdiocese of New York is already suing their insurance providers to make sure they provide coverage for the lawsuits they are about to face.
The Rockefeller University Hospital, which is being sued by hundreds of people who allege they were abused by a doctor, is also doing the same.
The financial hit these institutions could take just over the next year is huge, and there are examples from other states to prove it.
In 2003, California implemented a similar year-long look-back window. In that time, hundreds of millions of dollars were paid out and thousands of lawsuits were filed, most of which were against the Catholic Church, eventually forcing the Diocese of San Diego to file bankruptcy protection.
Similarly, after Minnesota closed its look-back window in 2016, numerous Catholic dioceses filed for bankruptcy protection as well.
According to reports, officials in the church said they are studying look-back windows in other states to try to estimate what could happen.
“While we do not know what will transpire when the C.V.A. window opens, at this point in time we have no expectation of needing to file for bankruptcy protection,” a church spokesman told The New York Times.
Studying look-back windows in other states might not be the best metric.
Some experts have noted the look-back window in New York could possibly create even more lawsuits than have been filed in other states because the national discussion about sexual misconduct scandals, especially regarding minors, has grown significantly over the last few years.
Mobilizations like the #MeToo movement have put accusations against religious organizations, private schools, sports programs, and celebrities in the spotlight. This has both increased awareness and prompted other victims to come forward.
Some notable examples include the numerous allegations against R. Kelly, as well as the dozens of women who have accused Jeffrey Epstein of sexually assaulting them.
The new law is also expected to allow Epstein’s victims to sue his estate for damages.
This cultural shift of victims having more attention and power to take action is not limited to New York.
In fact, New York is just one of 18 states and D.C. that passed similar laws extending their statutes of limitations for children who faced sexual abuse. Though only a few, including New Jersey, passed look-back window provisions.
Regardless, New York’s implementation of the Child Victims Act is significant, especially for the victims.
“The significance of it is a switch in the balance of power,” Marci Hamilton, the chief executive of the child protection think tank Child U.S.A., told the Times.
“There was a severe imbalance of power that led to their abuse in the first place. The culture shut them out of the legal system until now. For them, this is validation,” she continued.
Until these laws were passed, victims often had very few avenues to seek financial compensation. Catholic dioceses had previously made Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Programs, where victims could apply for settlements if they agreed not to file lawsuits.
According to reports, the Archdiocese of New York alone made agreements with more than 300 people and paid out $65 million to abuse victims.
However, at the same time, some have noted that the look-back window creates both an opportunity and a problem. For victims of child abuse, seeking justice can be powerful, but it can also bring up a lot of pain and trauma.
That conflict is made more complicated by the fact that the new statute of limitations for filing charges against abusers does not apply retroactivity, meaning that it only applies to new cases moving forward, basically requiring any abuse victims over the age of 23 have to bring claims through the look-back window.
“The Child Victims Act opens the door to the courthouse,” Michael Polenberg, the vice president for government affairs at the advocacy group Safe Horizon, told the Times.
“The Child Victims Act doesn’t change the way that our justice system works.”
See what others are saying: (TIME) (NPR) (The New York Times)
Florida Breaks Its Record for New Daily COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations
The Sunshine State now accounts for 20% of all new COVID-19 cases nationwide.
Florida Becomes COVID Epicenter
Florida reported 10,207 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sunday, marking its largest single-day count to date. The grim record comes just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that the state had counted 21,683 new infections Friday, its highest record of daily cases since the start of the pandemic.
Florida has become the new epicenter of the most recent U.S. outbreaks driven by the delta variant. The state now accounts for one out of every five new cases, and the weekend numbers are highly significant because they surpass previous records that were logged before vaccines were readily available.
Notably, Florida’s vaccination rate is actually the exact same as the nationwide average of 49% fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times tracker. In fact, Florida’s rate is the highest among the top 10 states currently reporting the most COVID cases.
While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has encouraged Florida residents to get vaccinated, he and the state’s legislature have also made it much harder for local officials to enforce protections to mitigate further spread.
DeSantis Bars Masking in Schools
On the same day that the state reported its highest cases ever, DeSantis signed an executive order banning school districts from requiring students to wear a mask when they go back to school later this month.
The move directly contradicts guidance issued by the CDC last week, which recommended that everyone inside K-12 schools wear a face covering.
DeSantis, for his part, has repeatedly claimed the spikes are part of “seasonal” increases driven by more people being indoors and air-conditioning systems circulating the virus. Still, he argued also Friday that he did not think masks were necessary to prevent children from transmitting COVID in the classroom, where they are inside with air conditioning.
At the same time, last week, Florida reported more than 21,000 infections among children younger than 19.
Florida is not the only state that has banned schools from requiring masks. In fact, many of the states suffering the biggest spikes have done the same, including Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas — which all currently rank among the top 10 states with the highest per capita COVID cases.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (Axios)
Biden to Mandate COVID Vaccines for Federal Workers as CDC Changes Masking Guidance
News of the efforts came on the same day that the U.S. reported more than 100,000 new daily COVID cases for the first time since February.
Federal Vaccine Mandate
President Joe Biden will announce Thursday that all federal employees must get vaccinated against COVID-19 or consent to strict testing and other safety precautions, White House officials told reporters Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Biden said he was considering the requirement but did not provide any more information.
While the officials also said the details are still being hashed out, they did note that the policy would be similar to ones recently put in place by California and New York City, which respectively required state and city workers to get the jab or submit to regular testing.
Also on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidelines to recommend that Americans who live in areas “of substantial or high transmission,” as well as all students and teachers, wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.
Delta Causes Spikes, But Vaccines Still Prove Effective
The renewed COVID mitigation efforts come as the delta variant is driving massive surges all over the country.
Coronavirus cases have quadrupled throughout July, jumping from a weekly average of 11,799 on the first day of the month to 63,248 on Tuesday, according to The New York Times tracker. Tuesday also saw new daily infections topping 100,000 for the first time since February, with more than 108,000 reported, per The Times.
While the vast majority of new infections are among people who have not been vaccinated, there have also been increasing reports of breakthrough cases in people who have received the jab.
Those cases, however, do not mean that the vaccines are not effective.
No vaccine prevents 100% of infections. Health officials have said time and time again that the jabs are intended to prevent severe disease and death, and they are doing just that.
According to the most recent data for July 19, the CDC reported that only 5,914 of the more than 161 million Americans who have gotten the vaccine were hospitalized or died from COVID-19 — a figure that represents 0.0036% of vaccinated people.
While safety precautions may be recommended for some people who have received the vaccine, many media narratives have overstated the role breakthrough cases play in the recent spikes. As New York Magazine explains, it is imperative to understand these new mask recommendations are not happening because the vaccine is not effective, but because not enough people are getting the vaccine.
“Because breakthrough infections have so often made the news due to their novelty, that can create a perception of more cases than are actually happening — particularly without more robust tracking of the actual cases to provide context,” the outlet wrote.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)
Wisconsin Police Deny Planting Evidence in Viral Video, Release Their Own Body Cam Footage
The footage police released shows that during a search, officers found a corner tear from a plastic bag inside a backseat passenger’s pocket. An officer then discarded it into the car after determining that it was empty.
Viral Video Appears To Show Officer Planting Evidence
The Caledonia Police Department in Wisconsin has responded to a viral cell phone video that appears to show an officer planting a small plastic baggie inside of a car during a traffic stop.
The now-viral footage was posted to Facebook by a man who goes by GlockBoy Savoo.
The user, who also filmed the clip, wrote in his post’s caption that the officer did this “just to get a reason to search the car” and said the cop didn’t know he was being recorded by the passenger.
Police Shut Down Accusations With Their Own Footage
After that video spread across social media, many were outraged, calling the Caledonia police dirty for seemingly planting evidence. All the outrage eventually prompted the department to announce an investigation Saturday.
Within hours, the department provided an update, claiming that officers didn’t actually plant any evidence or do anything illegal.
Police shared a lengthy summary of events, along with two body camera clips from the incident. That statement explained that the driver of the vehicle was pulled over for going 63 in a 45mph zone.
Two passengers in the backseat who were then spotted without seatbelts were asked to identify themselves and step out of the car. During a search of one passenger’s pockets, an officer pulled out “an empty corner tear” from a plastic baggie.
Police claim the corner tear did not contain any illegal substances, though they said this type of packaging is a common method for holding illegal drugs.
In one body cam clip, an officer can be heard briefly questioning the backseat passenger about the baggie. Then, that piece of plastic gets handed off to different officers who also determined it as empty before the officer in the original viral video discarded it into the back of the car.
The officer can also be seen explaining where the plastic came from to the passenger recording him.
“Aye, bro you just threw that in here!” the front seat passenger says, as heard in his version of the events.
“Yeah, cause it was in his pocket and I don’t want to hold onto it. It’s on their body cam that they took it off of him…I’m telling you where it came from, so. It’s an empty baggie at the moment too, so,” the officer replies.
The department went on to explain that while it would discourage officers from discarding items into a citizen’s car, this footage proves that evidence was not planted.
Authorities also noted that no arrests were made in this incident and the driver was the only one issued a citation for speeding. The statement added that since four officers were present at the scene, police have more than six hours of footage to review but they promised to release the footage in full in the near future.