By Cayla Harris
October 29, 2019
As the number of cases filed under the state’s Child Victims Act inches toward 1,000, lawmakers and advocates are calling for other states to also expand protections for survivors of sexual abuse.
A group of activists on Monday joined state legislators outside the New York City mansion that once belonged to Jeffrey Epstein, the deceased financier and convicted sex offender, to call for nationwide policies aiding victims of sex crimes. They are hoping to push other states to enact their own versions of the Child Victims Act, which temporarily eliminates the statute of limitations for civil cases involving child sex abuse.
That law has offered some of Epstein’s alleged victims a pathway to sue his estate.
“Congress is not capable of passing any legislation, it seems, to benefit these survivors,” state Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan, said in an interview. “It’s up to state legislatures to follow New York’s lead and step into the void by assisting survivors of sexual violence.”
The rally came on the heels of Hoylman’s Friday proposal that would serve as a companion bill to the Child Victims Act and open the statute of limitations on civil claims for those who were sexually abused as adults. Hoylman, who sponsored the Child Victims Act, also spoke at the rally.
Activists pointed to Epstein as an example of abuse that sometimes crosses state lines. Some of his alleged victims say they were abused in the same mansion that served as a backdrop to Monday’s gathering, while others say they were assaulted in Florida, which has not adopted its own Child Victims Act.
In August, the CVA opened a one-year window for survivors of child sex abuse to lodge civil claims against their alleged offenders, even if the abuse occurred decades ago. To date, more than 900 cases have been filed statewide.
A handful of states, including California, Montana, and Arizona have enacted similar look-back periods; a New Jersey law establishing a window for both child and adult victims of sex crimes will go into effect in December.
Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal, D-Manhattan, said lawmakers will continue to advocate for nationwide protections for survivors, whether they push for federal reform or individually press states to pass laws on the subject.
“Your pain, your abuse, is as meaningful to us in New York as it is in other states, and we’re going to ensure that other states follow suit because this horrific past needs to be dealt with in the present,” Rosenthal said at the event.
The rally was hosted by Safe Horizon, a nonprofit victims advocacy group. Attendees praised the Child Victims Act, which had been years in the making before a newly Democratic state Legislature passed the measure in February.
Still, the rollout of the CVA has not been without its hurdles. The large majority of cases filed so far have targeted big-name institutions like the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts, and some survivors have had difficulty finding lawyers to take on cases targeting individuals with few assets.
Several state senators, including Hoylman, are exploring a fund to help those survivors file claims.