Tom Andriola is an abuse survivor who knows firsthand how difficult it is to come forward.

"Part of the problem with the dynamics of sexual assault is it's fear driven," Andriola said. "Survivors often fear for their lives and their livelihoods. For that reason, it takes them years and years and years just to come forward, even to their closest family and friends." 

Advocates for victims and survivors are making a final push in the coming weeks as the ability to file a legal claim under the Child Victims Act is set to close on August 14. The measure signed into law two years ago makes it easier for childhood abuse victims and survivors to file lawsuits, often against the powerful institutions that may have turned a blind eye at the time. 

The passage of the measure, after years of pressure from advocates, coincided with a broader societal reckoning surrounding sexual assault and abuse. More than 7,000 cases under the Child Victims Act have been filed in New York.

A different version of the law seeking to achieve the same end, the Adult Survivors Act, has stalled in the state Assembly. 

"I think over the years sexual assault has become more destigmatized, but there's still a long, long way to go," Andriola said. "You see it in stories all the time. People don't want to talk about it that much, especially when they come out and disclose what has happened to them."

Andriola and advocates like him are working to encourage more survivors to come forward before the deadline, initially extended as the COVID-19 pandemic led to a backlog in the court system.

"It gives an opportunity for survivors of child sexual abuse to file lawsuits, seek some kind of retribution for people to tell their story," Andriola said. 

The hope among advocates like Bridie Farrell is victims and survivors tell their stories and can also be inspired to come forward. Farrell is now a Democratic candidate for congress.

"It's such a theme that when one person steps up to do the right thing, if they're a leader, other people are going to follow," she said. "What the Child Victims Act taught so many of us it built an amazing community of survivors who had to get over a horrible tragedy."