Democrat and Chronicle
By Chad Arnold
August 13, 2019
A group of New York state lawmakers are sharing their stories of sexual abuse in a new ad a day before a key provision of the state’s Child Victims Act is set to take effect.
The ad features four lawmakers who survived sexual abuse as children sharing their stories and urging fellow victims to come forward under a one-year look-back scheduled to open on Wednesday.
During the year-long period, victims previously too old under the state’s statute of limitations can bring civil claims against their abusers.
“When you’ve been sexually abused as a child, it can take years, or even decades, to process what happened,” Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, D-Manhattan, said in the ad.
“That’s why we changed the law and passed the Child Victims Act,” Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, D-Pelham, Westchester County, added.
Both Niou and Biaggi shared their stories of childhood sexual abuse as the Legislature debated passing the law earlier this year.
Assemblywomen Catalina Cruz, D-Queens and Rodneyse Bichotte, D-Brooklyn are also featured in the ad.
Hundreds of victims are expected to come forward once the year-long window opens on Wednesday and the state, as well as victim advocacy groups, have been preparing in the months since the bill passed.
“This is a major step towards ending a culture of silence and building a new set of rules that is trauma-informed and puts survivors first,” Biaggi said in a statement Tuesday.
The ad was launched by Safe Horizon, a victims advocacy group that lobbied for the passage of the law.
In it, lawmakers share their stories of sexual abuse while bringing attention to the new law which was stalled for years under a Republican-controlled Senate and opposition from major institutions like the Roman Catholic Church.
“I thought I was going to die without ever having spoken about the abuse that happened to me,” Biaggi said in the ad.
Safe Horizon launched the ad in conjunction with a new website containing information and resources for survivors looking to file charges under the law.
“We want survivors to know their options and are proud to help them determine what is best for them,” Safe Horizon CEO Ariel Zwang, said in a statement.
In addition to the look-back window, the law increased the statute of limitations for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, allowing them to file criminal complaints against their abuses up to the age of 28 and file civil suits until the age of 55.
The state is expecting an influx of victims to come forward during the one-year look period.
Law offices across the country have been advertising their services on Facebook and other platforms in the hopes of attracting clients since the law was signed in February.
In preparation, New York’s judicial system has set aside 45 judges across the state to handle the influx of cases and conducted training programs under the new law.
“The revived Child Victims Act cases are critically important cases, raising numerous challenging legal issues, that must be adjudicated as consistently and expeditiously as possible across the state,” New York’s Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks said in a statement.
“We are fully committed to providing appropriate and sufficient resources to achieve that goal.”