Child Victims Act draws thousands seeking justice from childhood abuse

Around New York State

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for victims of childhood sexual abuse is about to run out. New York’s Child Victims Act expires Friday night.

The Child Victims Act has enabled thousands of adults to sue the people they claim abused them as children, an action that would have otherwise been barred by a statute of limitations.

They are predators who, the victims say, robbed them of their childhood.

More than 1,100 lawsuits have been filed under the Child Victims Act in Erie County alone, with most of them aimed at the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.

“But in the past, people who were abused as children did not have a way to come forward. They were afraid to tell their parents, they were afraid to report this to anybody,” said Attorney for abuse victims Steve Boyd.

Steve Boyd’s law firm has filed more than 600 lawsuits on behalf of victims of childhood abuse against the Catholic Dioceses in Buffalo and Rochester. Boyd has also sued other institutions under the CVA, such as public schools, the Boy Scouts, and youth camps going back decades.

“The statistics show that people are past the age of 50 before they are even able to speak the words that they were sexually abused as children. So the statute of limitations was long gone before they were able to even talk about it,” added Boyd.

But Boyd told us, the Child Victims Act is about more than suing for money, it is about justice for defenseless children, against predatory adults and healing emotional wounds that have festered for most of their lives.

The Williamsville attorney says he encourages his clients to seek counseling.

“There is no justice system that can give you your childhood back, but there is justice if you can face your accuser, or face the people that employed your accuser, and protected your accuser, so I think there is some healing there,” Boyd said.

Boyd says just sitting and listening to the horrors his clients have had to endure.. can be therapeutic for them, and enlightening for him.

“In the first two months of the Child Victims Act, we had three or four people in here a day, seven days a week, and every one of those meetings was just emotionally draining for them and for me, and all of those people I feel I am bonded with them for life,” said Boyd.

No matter what the outcome of their lawsuits, Steve Boyd told us many of his clients were relieved that someone finally sat down and listened to them.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here. To submit a Call 4 Action, click here.

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