Survivors of Sexual Abuse Call on Lawmakers to Pass the Child Victims Act New York is currently one of only four states in the nation that imposes a strict five-year SOL

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abuseAlbany (New York): With only 19 days left of session, survivors of childhood sexual abuse, faith leaders, law enforcement, and advocates are calling on lawmakers to pass the Child Victims Act (CVA): legislation that would lift the 5-year statute-of-limitation (SOL) on childhood sexual assault. New York’s current law re-victimizes children who have been raped, abused and robbed of their right to justice.
Each year, 40,000 children are sexually abused in New York State – one in four women and one in six men—yet New York is currently one of only four states in the nation that imposes such strict limits, preventing survivors from seeking civil or criminal penalties against their abusers past the age of 23.[1] It can take survivors decades to cope with their abuse, let alone seek access to legal recourse.
Delaware recently removed its statue-of-limitations, giving victims the opportunity to pursue justice at their own pace. In the first two years of the law, 175 people confronted their offenders in court.[2] Last week, Oklahoma and Nebraska raised their states’ statute of limitations, allowing more survivors to have their day in court.
Today, survivors of childhood sexual abuse, faith leaders, law enforcement, Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, State Senator Brad Hoylman, and advocates called on Albany lawmakers to increase access to justice for survivors of childhood sexual abuse and urged the Governor put out bill language.
The bill has been introduced every year for the past 10 years, but gained new traction in January when Governor Cuomo made it a priority in his State of the State address, saying: “These survivors deserve justice, plain and simple. Giving victims the opportunity to advance their claims in court is the right thing to do and I urge the Legislature to join me and pass this measure once and for all.”[3]
“My abuse left me feeling isolated and banished from society. I was powerless and alone — I was struggling to stay alive while homeless and unable to come forward about my abuse until it was too late to bring charges. New York laws and Albany lawmakers are failing their communities while sexual offenders continue to enjoy legal loopholes and exploit innocent youth. We must pass the Child Victims Act today,” said Kat Sullivan, who was abused at the Emma Willard School in Troy, NY by her soccer coach and history professor.
“As a child, I did not possess the maturity or ability to understand that I had been deeply traumatized by the actions of my abuser nor did I have the vocabulary to properly express the harm that had been inflicted upon me. Feelings of depression, a belief the world was unsafe and thoughts of suicide became a part of my everyday life. I began using drug and alcohol as a preteen as a means to cope with my confusion. This cycle of abuse continued throughout my 20’s. It was not until I began my healing process in my early 30’s that I started to understand that many of the problems in my life were a direct result of my abuse. Healing these deep seeded wounds is a long and winding path and simply takes time and that’s why the statute-of-limitations must be raised in New York state,” said Thomas Travers who was abused in Buffalo, NY by a priest.
“It’s time Albany lawmakers address the issue of childhood sexual abuse and pass the Child Victims Act (CVA). Albany lawmakers must act now and stop evading the issue of childhood sexual abuse. I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and I deserve access to the legal system,” said Bridie Farrell who was abused in Saratoga Springs, NY by her teammate when she was a member of the U.S. Speed Skating team.
“New York is one of the worst states in the nation in statute of limitation reform, along with Alabama and Mississippi. We’re grateful to Governor Cuomo for his leadership and support, but it’s also imperative that he put forth bill language now for the CVA. It’s past time for us to establish a new legacy in New York of protecting children and guaranteeing justice,” said Steve Jimenez who was abused in Brooklyn, NY by a teaching brother at a Catholic school in the Diocese of Brooklyn.

“Throughout my twenty-five years as a detective, I handled hundreds of exploited children’s investigations involving child pornography, online enticement, and sextortion. But because of the strict statute of limitations I repeatedly had to tell victims that there was nothing the legal system could do for them. As a retired police officer, former member of the FBI Long Island Exploited Children’s Task Force, and father, I am pleading with Albany lawmakers to eliminate the statute of limitations once and for all,” said Rory Forrestal, a retired Suffolk County Police Officer.

“It is crucial the Child Victims Act is passed in New York State for the sake of child victims and the Catholic Church. We are calling on the Archdiocese of New York and Cardinal Dolan, to provide public identification of the perpetrators within the church in order to warn and protect children and families from sexual abuse. While the Archdiocese of New York’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program is providing compensation for victims outside of the State’s statute of limitations, they must be doing more to keep our children safe from harm,” said Robert Hoatson Founder and President of Road to Recovery.

State Senator Brad Hoylman, sponsor of Child Victims Act in the Senate, said: “The leadership of the New York State Senate used the Albany version of the ‘nuclear option’ to derail my motion behind closed doors for a public hearing and vote on the Child Victims Act which I carry with Democratic Leader Stewart-Cousins. The leadership’s wanton disregard for the rules of our chamber is outrageous in itself, but it’s made even more contemptible by coming at the expense of the survivors of child sexual abuse, who are only asking for the opportunity to confront their abusers in court of law. Child sexual abuse survivors have endured among the most insidious and widespread crimes in our society. They deserve our respect and a vote on the Child Victims Act.”

“Year after year, survivors of childhood sexual assault have been tireless in their pursuit of justice, traveling to Albany and across the state to request and now demand that their lawmakers pass the Child Victims Act. I am humbled by their courage, and call upon my colleagues in the Senate to show at least half as much courage by siding with victims as opposed to shielding predators from the law. We are elected to do what is right by the people of the State of New York, and passing the CVA this session is the right thing to do,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan), sponsor of the Child Victims Act in the Assembly.

Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, “The Child Victims Act is a good bill which I am proud to co-sponsor. This common-sense legislation will help the victims of this heinous crime seek justice. I urge all of my colleagues to support the Child Victims Act and pass it before the end of this Legislative Session.”
“It’s time for the Governor to show lawmakers what courage looks like and finally get this done. We need to send a clear message: ‘Stand with children, or stand with those who harm them,” said Michael Polenberg, VP of Government Affairs at Safe Horizon.
“CHILD USA is discouraged that Albany lawmakers have yet to bring Child Victims Act to a vote. Just this week, Nebraska and Oklahoma lifted the statute-of-limitations for survivors and victims. After a decade of stalling, it is time New York enacts meaningful reform. Children continue to suffer because abusers and institutions who cover up abuse are protected by our current laws. The time to act is now. Survivors demand a vote,” said Marci Hamilton of Child USA.

Background:

The bill has been introduced every year for the past 10 years, but gained new traction in January when Governor Cuomo made it a priority in his State of the State address, saying: “These survivors deserve justice, plain and simple. Giving victims the opportunity to advance their claims in court is the right thing to do and I urge the Legislature to join me and pass this measure once and for all.”[4]
On April 17th, the Governor indicated that he has no plans to push for centerpiece issues during the rest of this session.[5] Then, last week State Senator John Bonacic, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee discharged the CVA to the Rules Committee to avoid a vote.

Senator Brad Hoylman had previously filed a motion for committee consideration, which would have required the Judiciary Committee to vote on a bill within 45 days. A member of a committee can make up to three such requests a year. A member cannot file a motion for committee consideration once a bill is in the Rules Committee.

The Child Victims Act (CVA) has been introduced every year for the past decade. Versions of the bill are currently being co-sponsored by Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal and Senator Brad Hoylman. The Assembly is the only chamber to ever move and pass any iteration of the bill.

The CVA was drafted in response to the overly rigid statute of limitation laws in New York State. Currently most survivors must seek civil relief or press criminal charges by the relatively young age of 23 or forever lose their ability to seek justice in our courts.

The CVA would eliminate the civil and criminal statute of limitations prospectively, create a one-year retrospective civil “window” for survivors over the age of 23, and remove the 90-day notice of claim for public institutions that currently help shield them from civil liability.

[1] “Survey of Civil Statue of Limitations Across the United States.” Cardozo Law. http://sol-reform.com/silos.pdf
[2] The Relative Success of Civil SOL Window and Revival Statutes State-by-State.” Child USA.

[3] http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/cuomo-unveils-plan-child-victims-act-article-1.2943920
[4] http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/cuomo-unveils-plan-child-victims-act-article-1.2943920
[5] Moring Memo, “In Post-Budget Session, Cuomo Says He’ll Take Cues From Legislature.” State of Politics. http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/04/in-post-budget-session-cuomo-says-hell-take-cues-from-legislature/–

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