CHEMUNG COUNTY, N.Y. (WENY) - A key component of the Child Victims Act went into effect at midnight in New York state on Wednesday. Thousands of sexual abuse survivors can now file civil lawsuits against their alleged abusers.

For decades now, thousands of victims who say they were sexually abused as a child have been waiting to bring their cases to court, and they will now have that opportunity starting on Wednesday. Back in February Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Child Victims Act. Under this new measure, sexual abuse survivors will now be given one year to file a lawsuit against their abusers and the institutions where their abusers worked, regardless of when the abuse occurred.

"After this one year window closes, the new rule is 55 but it's going to be measured from the date of the act. So if it was previous to that one year window, then it would be under the old rule. So when that window closes, all those claims that occurred prior to that window opening will be gone finally and forever," says Adam Gee, an attorney for Ziff Law Firm. 

The Roman Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts and Jeffrey Epstein are some of the defendants who are facing sex abuse lawsuits in the state under this new law. A civil lawsuit was already filed on Wednesday, by a woman who says she was raped by Epstein as a teenager back in 2002.

Gee added, "People are much more willing to come forward and talk about it more now. I think it's fair to open that window because of the changes that we've had in our society." 

Thousands of civil lawsuits are expected to be filed.