Despite the holiday, the clock starts ticking on Thursday for sexual abuse survivors to file civil claims under the Adult Survivors Act’s lookback window.

Starting Thursday, survivors of sexual abuse who are or were over the age of 18 when the abuse occurred can file a civil lawsuit against their abuser or an institution. The lookback window follows the model set in the Child Victims Act, which was passed in 2019, and allows survivors to file claims in cases that are outside the statute of limitations. The lookback window only lasts for one year and is scheduled to begin on Thursday.

Michael Polenberg, vice president of government affairs at Safe Horizon, told Capital Tonight that there are a variety of reasons why a survivors of abuse may not come forward, either criminally or civilly, including their incarceration status, threats to them or their employment, or that they simply need time to cope with the trauma. Polenberg argues that “there’s not one size fits all response” to these cases but the new law gives the decision-making power back to the survivor rather than the statute of limitations.

Whether a survivor of abuse decides to file a lawsuit is up to them. However, an analysis from Child USA found that nearly 11,000 cases were filed under the Child Victims Act. The CVA’s lookback window had been extended due to the impact of COVID-19 on the state court system.

While the window opens on Thanksgiving, survivors will have up to a year to decide whether they want to file a claim. The date was chosen because the governor signed the legislation shortly after it was passed and became effective six months after it became law.