Five Fast Facts about NYC’s Gender-Motivated Violence Act (GMVA)

default author image01.04.2024

The Gender-Motivated Violence Act (GMVA) is a little-known New York City law that puts power back into the hands of sex abuse survivors by allowing them to file civil lawsuits for a specific time period. It is also known as the Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Law (VGMVPL) or the Gender Motivated-Violence Protection Act (GMVPA).

In December 2022, the NYC Council passed an amendment to the GMVA that provided new protections for survivors of gender-based violence, including a two-year revival window for claims that had passed the statute of limitations.

Here are five fast facts about the GMVA:

People of various race, ages, and genders in NYC crossing the street. A NYC subway stop can be seen in the background.

1. The GMVA was passed in 2000 in response to a Supreme Court ruling

The Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Law (VGMVPL), the formal name of the GMVA, was passed in response to the United States v. Morrison, a U.S. Supreme Court case that stripped protections provided by the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

In that case, Christy Brzonkala filed a VAWA lawsuit against two college football players who allegedly raped her while attending Virginia Polytechnic Institute. On May 15, 2000, a sharply divided Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that Congress did not have constitutional authority to enact VAWA’s civil remedy provision under the Commerce Clause or the 14th Amendment.

2. It provides a path to justice for survivors in NYC

The SCOTUS decision left survivors without an avenue to pursue civil cases for gender-motivated violence under the 14th Amendment, prompting the New York City Council to swiftly enact the GMVA.

Under the GMVA, survivors in NYC can file civil lawsuits for gender-based violence that results in physical or emotional injury, including but not limited to rape and sexual assault. The incident(s) must have occurred within the five boroughs to fall within the statute. A 2019 court of appeals decision in Breest v. Haggis established that rape and sexual assault are both considered forms of gender-motivated violence under the GMVA.

Importantly, the GMVA allows survivors to file lawsuits against individual abusers OR any individual or institution that played a role in enabling or covering up the abuse.

Other types of gender-based violence that may fall under the statute include:

  • Domestic Violence
  • Physical and Verbal Assault or Battery
  • Sexual violence in the workplace
  • Human trafficking
  • False imprisonment

3. It has a 2-year lookback window that closes on February 28, 2025

This two-year lookback window was modeled after the 2019 Child Victims Act (CVA), which temporarily allowed survivors of childhood sexual violence to pursue civil claims regardless of how long ago the incidents occurred. An estimated 11,000 cases were filed during the two-year CVA window, which closed on August 13, 2023.

Similarly, the GMVA’s temporary window allows survivors of sexual violence within the five boroughs to file civil claims until February 28, 2025.

This lookback window currently provides the only method of recourse for time-barred claims in NYC since the Adult Survivors Act window closed last November. While the ASA window was open, we filed several cases listing the GMVA as a cause of action. There are ongoing efforts to reopen the ASA window and provide additional support to survivors through legislative action.

4. It sets the statute of limitations to nine years

In NYC, survivors now have up to nine years from the date of the assault to file their GMVA claims. Prior to December 2022, the statute of limitations was only seven years.

New York State also provides additional protection through 2019 state legislation that changed the statute of limitations to 20 years for rape cases, up from the previous 5 years.

5. The amendment was drafted with support from survivors

Backed by survivors, the GMVA was amended in 2022 to include the lookback window and the increased statutes of limitations. The change was proposed by Council Members Carlina Rivera and Selvena Brooks-Powers and sponsored by 26 other council members.

Several of our clients provided testimony during a NYC Council Committee on Women and Gender Equity meeting in support of the amendment. Organizations like New Housing Destiny, Met Council, and the NYC Department of Social Services also voiced their support during the meeting.