Even before New York’s courts were limiting the number of civil cases they heard in response to COVID, there was a call to extend the Child Victims Act "look-back window" to allow people like Mary Ellen O’Loughlin to pursue justice.
O’Loughlin, who lives in Saratoga and runs the Foundation for Survivors of Abuse, was groomed and then raped as a child by her step-father. She has yet to find an attorney to take her case.
“One of the most important things for our legislators to understand is that when it’s a family-based case, there’s no institution behind it,” O’Loughlin told Spectrum News. “And if there’s no institution there’s no money, and if there’s no money it’s difficult to find a lawyer.”
Even if O'Loughlin finds an attorney to take her case, she is out of luck since New York’s courts are not currently accepting new civil cases.
“Now, what was a 12-month window is effectively a seven-month window,” she said.
It’s one of the reasons Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) says extending the CVA look-back window is critical.
“For a lot of people, this was a great opportunity to access justice from the courts. For others who are just starting to awaken to the ordeal they went through in the past, they didn’t have time to process it. They are still grappling with the abuse that happened, and they’re not ready to be out in the open about it,” Rosenthal said.
Rosenthal also sponsors the Adult Survivors Act, which if passed, would create a one-year look-back window similar to the CVA’s. It would allow adults who were sexually assaulted to pursue justice.
Model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez was the first woman to report Harvey Weinstein to the police. She wore a wire and got Weinstein to admit his guilt.
“What happened next is that the DA didn’t pursue my case in the way that it should have been done, and actually, they accused me, asking me if I ever was a prostitute in my former life because of my work,” Gutierrez said.
If the Adult Survivors Act is passed, the model and activist says she will likely pursue the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.