Governor Signs Bill to Extend Statute of Limitations for Sexual Assault

Press Releases / September 18, 2019

NOW-NY Fought to Give More Survivors a Shot at Justice and Calls on NYPD to Act

For Immediate Release

September 18, 2019 – New York, NY – More than one decade after NOW-NY worked to eliminate the statute of limitations on rape in the first degree, Governor Cuomo signed legislation into law in New York City today that will extend the statute of limitations for rape in the second and third degree and criminal sexual acts in the second degree. The law will give more survivors the time and ability to report sexual assault crimes. 

The Governor was joined by leaders of Times Up and NOW-NY President Sonia Ossorio, who championed this reform. NOW has worked to spotlight the need for improving New York’s laws and to hold local authorities accountable for prioritizing sexual violence through it’s Take Rape Seriously campaign, in partnership with its sister organization Women’s Justice NOW.

Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women – New York said, “This legislation signals the weight with which New York takes sex crimes, and it signals to police and prosecutors across the state to keep pace. The New York legislature has done its job. It now moves to mayors, city councils, DAs and local police departments to meet the needs of survivors and make this expansion of the statute of limitations a practical reality.”

The legislation was approved with strong support in the state legislature in June and will go into effect immediately upon being signed by the Governor. The law will apply to all future cases but will also extend the window for alleged crimes where the statute of limitations has not yet expired. 

“This new law is nothing short of a mandate for Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD, who are failing too many sexual assault survivors in this metropolis of 8 million residents and 60 million tourists,” Ossorio said. “Law enforcement must invest enough in staffing, training, and culture change so that complaints can be fully investigated and victims treated with respect and dignity. Changes must still be be made to make sexual violence a top priority.”

In a 2018 report, the NYPD was cited for failures to sufficiently respond to sexual assault crimes by the Department of Investigations. In the wake of #MeToo, reports of rape and sexual assault are on the rise.  It is estimated that 1 in 5 women in the U.S. are sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Just this week, a study released in JAMA Internal Medicine found that for 1 in 16 U.S. women, their first experience with sexual intercourse was rape. 

Ossorio said, “Rape is a crime that rips at the fabric of our society, and today New York is saying every single one of us has a right to seek justice. This is a great victory for the women, men and families of New York. We applaud Governor Cuomo and the New York State legislature for taking this important step forward.”

As a result of the new law, the statute of limitations for rape in the second degree and criminal sexual act in the second degree will be extended from the current five years to 20 years. These same crimes in the third degree will be extended from five to ten years. The legislation also allows for civil action. Victims will be able to bring civil litigation against their alleged assailants for up to 20 years after the offense. The legislation will fully eliminate the statute of limitations on incest in the first degree.

NOW-NYC ignites change for the women and girls of New York. We advance laws, promote women in politics, fight for reproductive justice, challenge discrimination and violence against women, and act NOW. Women’s Justice NOW is building a future of social justice and equality for all women by mobilizing communities, developing new activist leadership, and providing direct help and advocacy to women.

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