By Michael Gwizdala
January 29, 2019
After being stymied for 13 years, the Child Victims Act passed both houses of the New York State Legislature.
“The only sin, I believe, greater than abusing a child would be protecting those who abuse a child. That’s my view of Catholicism and truth and justice,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement about the importance of passing the legislation as part of his ‘2019 Justice Agenda.’
The Child Victims Act expands statutes of limitations for survivors of child sexual abuse civilly and criminally from age 23 to 55 and 28, respectively.
In addition, it allows a one-year lookback window to enable survivors with expired claims to seek justice and eliminate the requirement to file a notice of claims within 90 days of the date of harm at public institutions.
According to NY Pass CVA, one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Plus, they said that children with disabilities are 2.9 times more likely to be abused.
During the past two years the act garnered bipartisan support in passing the Assembly and, while the act passed 63-0 in the Senate, it had previously stalled under Republican control and had faced opposition from outside groups such as the Roman Catholic Church, Boy Scouts, and Agudath Israel.
One longtime advocate of the legislation invited onto the Senate floor for the historic vote was Gary Greenberg, founder of the Fighting for Children PAC.
“I have lobbied legislators, I have been on the campaign trail with bold legislators challenging comfortable incumbents, I have sacrificed time away from my family, I have lost friends and probably years off my life — but I can say with great satisfaction, that from today onward — survivors of sexual abuse in New York state will have a voice and systemic abusers will no longer feel free to rampantly abuse children without consequence,” Greenberg said.
Democratic state Sen. Neil Breslin said he was happy to see this day come for those victims and advocates.
“It’s a happy day and I did a lot of research to make sure that the lookback would be fair and by looking at other states, I believe the lookback will be fair. I think it’s appropriate and when you listen to all of the victims and the period of time it takes them to process and come to terms it’s a very good disposition,” Breslin said.
Breslin also noted how inspired he was after he heard from those speaking passionately on the issue.
“I’ve heard from a tremendous number of victims and a lot of them just extremely impressive, relentless and really seeking justice and not dollars,” Breslin added.
Also voicing support on the CVA’s passage was Republican state Sen. Jim Tedisco and Daphne Jordan.
“Those who commit such heinous crimes against children are monsters and should pay for the physical as well as emotional and psychological violence they have perpetrated and face the long arm of the law. I have long publicly supported the Child Victims Act and was proud to vote for it,” Tedisco said in a statement.
“The victims of sexual assault deserve justice. I voted for the Child Victims Act today because I am 100 percent on the side of victims and believe they need relief from the horrifying crimes and terrible abuse they suffered. [Monday’s] Senate passage of the Child Victims Act will help ensure that some of the most vulnerable in our society will finally have their voices heard and see justice,” Jordan added in a statement.
Also praising the legislation final passing was Michael Polenberg, VP of Government Relations for Safe Horizon.
“For more than a decade, the leadership of the New York State Senate prevented common-sense statute of limitation reform for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Meanwhile, children across New York did not have the full array of protections to keep them safe from harm. [On Monday], with new leadership in the Senate, the NYS legislature will vote to pass the Child Victims Act into law and create meaningful paths to justice for survivors,” he said.
“By identifying those who prey on children, the law will also help keep New York communities safer. Safe Horizon is proud to have helped lead a statewide coalition effort to bring this long overdue reform to New York, and we applaud Sen. Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and the bill sponsors, Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal and Senator Brad Hoylman for their bold leadership and commitment to justice,” Polenberg added.