Kathy was 25-years-old when she was referred to Safe Horizon from a nearby hospital. She was pregnant with her first child and was having a routine doctor’s exam when she broke down into uncontrollable tears.
Kathy told her Safe Horizon counselor that she was sexually abused by her own father from the age of 7. He forced her to silently suffer through repeated rapes by threatening to inflict the same abuse on her younger sister.
When Kathy was 12, she discovered that her father had, in fact, been raping her younger sister all along. Desperate to protect her sister and herself, Kathy gathered her strength and told her secret to the one person she trusted more than anyone—her grandmother.
Instead of believing, comforting, or protecting her, Kathy’s grandmother denied that her son could ever be guilty of "these kinds of things,” and warned Kathy that if she ever spoke of this again, she would bring shame not only to herself but ruin to the entire family.
Kathy never spoke of it again, until she found Safe Horizon 13 years later. After years of repression, shame, self-doubt and denial, Kathy sought support from our Counseling Center to come to terms with the emotional trauma of the abuse. Through working with our therapist, Kathy concluded that it was the reality of bringing her own child into the world that caused the crisis that finally got her the help she had needed for years.
Kathy reached a point in her recovery when she felt that she needed her father to be brought to justice. But Kathy was 25-years-old, and in New York State, that’s two years too late to file criminal damages against her perpetrator. She struggled with how to proceed because, while all she wanted was for her father to take responsibility for his crimes, she knew he would never do so without the weight of the justice system behind her. She was also tormented by the possibility that her father was—like many child sexual abusers—a repeat offender who might make other little girls suffer as she and her sister had.
Although Safe Horizon was able to offer Kathy help and a chance to heal, justice was beyond reach. But you can help people like Kathy fight injustice and protect young children from potential predators.
The Child Victim's Act of New York, sponsored by Assembly Member Margaret Markey and State Senator Tom Duane, would extend the statute of limitations for filing criminal damages against alleged child sexual abusers to 10 years — from the current 5 years — after a victim turns 18. That’s 5 additional years for a survivor to begin to heal from a childhood of hurt, shame and silence—a step that so many must take before they can find the strength to pursue justice.
* Client names and identifying information have been changed to protect their privacy. Images used are representations of Safe Horizon’s clients.