Hundreds of people who say they were victims of sexual assault have filed lawsuits against prominent institutions in the US state of New York - including the Roman Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America - as a new law that extends the statute of limitations on those cases went into effect.
The state's landmark Child Victims Act, which legislators passed earlier this year, lifts the statute of limitations on sexual abuse cases for one year, giving alleged abuse victims in New York a second chance to sue, even if the crime happened decades ago.
Previously, most victims of childhood sexual abuse only had until the age of 23 to bring criminal charges or to seek damages in civil lawsuits in New York.
Under the law, after the year-long window closes, accusers will have until the age of 55 to file lawsuits and until the age 28 to seek criminal charges. Advocates, mental health experts and victims say it often takes years for people who were molested as children to speak out about their trauma, even to a loved one.
Hundreds of lawsuits had been filed by early afternoon on Wednesday, the first day the law went into effect, according to local reports.
Many who said they had spent years of suffering following the alleged abuse said they felt a renewed hope for justice.
Peter Vajda, now 75, filed a lawsuit naming the archdiocese of New York as a defendant on Wednesday. He accused a religious brother of molesting him when he attended a Catholic boarding school in the Bronx in the early 1950s.
"Now, it's their turn. Now it's their time," said Vajda, according to The Associated Press news agency. "And I want them to get everything they deserve in the way of punishment."