New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed a bill into law Wednesday morning extending the statute of limitations for rape victims.
“[This legislation] is a societal acknowledgment that says to victims all across the state and all across this nation: ‘We hear you. We believe you and we will stand with you. And we condemn this behavior as strongly as you do,’” Cuomo said during a Wednesday press conference.
The legislation extends the period of time in which victims of second- and third-degree rape can take legal action from five years to 20 and 10 years, respectively. There is no statute of limitations for rape in the first degree.
New York state defines rape in the second degree as sexual intercourse when the victim is “incapable of consent by reason of being mentally disabled or mentally incapacitated” and/or when the victim is under 15 years old and the attacker is 18 or older. Third-degree rape is defined as sexual intercourse with a victim who is “incapable of consent” and/or when the victim is under 17 years old and the perpetrator is 21 or older.
“If you’re a survivor of sexual assault, know that New York State is on your side,” Cuomo tweeted after signing the legislation.
In a press conference before he signed the bill, Cuomo was joined by members of Time’s Up, an anti-sexual violence group created in the wake of the Me Too movement. Actors and Time’s Up activists Julianne Moore, Mira Sorvino and Michelle Hurd spoke at the presser.
“The signing of this bill is a watershed moment, a real advance in the battle against rape culture not only in New York but across the country,” Sorvino said. “Because of it, more survivors can now have their rightful day in court and a chance for justice.”
Cuomo signed a similar bill in February, the Child Victims Act, which extends the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse survivors to file both criminal charges and civil suits.
Sonia Ossorio, the president of the National Organization for Women’s New York chapter, applauded Cuomo in a Wednesday statement to HuffPost.
“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,” she said. “This is a great victory for the women, men and families of New York.”
This article has been updated to include Ossorio’s comment.
Need help? Visit RAINN's National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center's website.