Photo Courtesy of Mike Groll/Office of the Governor
Governor Cuomo said passage of the Child Victims Act has been “a long time coming.”
By Michael V. Cusenza
After decades of lobbying and lost votes, the State Legislature on Monday voted in favor of the Child Victims Act.
According to the State Senate, the Child Victims Act will raise the criminal statute of limitations for child sexual abuse crimes by five years and raise the civil statute of limitations for causes of action brought by someone seeking redress for physical, psychological or other injury caused by child sexual abuse to age 55. Additionally, this legislation will create a one-year window, starting six months from the effective date of the bill, for past victims of child sexual abuse to initiate lawsuits against their abusers and the public and private institutions that let the abuse happen. The bill will eliminate “notice of claim” requirements that create hurdles for victims to sue public institutions that may have allowed the abuse to occur, during both the revival window and going forward.
“It’s been a long, long time coming. We have literally been meeting and talking for years,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Monday. “This issue, the Child Victims Act, we have put in the budget every year, we’ve made it a priority every year. And at the end of the day, we were foiled by the conservatives in the Senate. I don’t even believe it was the moderates in the Senate, I believe it was the conservatives in the Senate who were threatened by the Catholic Church. And this went on for years.”
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, more than 63,000 children are sexually abused each year—that only includes the number of cases that are actually reported. Many criminals go uncharged, as the majority of perpetrators are known to the child, in a position of power, or may even reside in the home. Victims of sexual abuse carry their trauma with them for the rest of their lives and are more likely to struggle with drug abuse, experience post-traumatic stress disorder, and suffer from debilitating depression.
“Abuse of any kind against a child is the most shameful, unforgivable crime,” Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Howard Beach). “It should be up to the victims who were wrongfully robbed of their innocence to decide how and when to tell their stories and pursue justice against their abusers. With the Child Victims Act set to become law, we’re finally righting a terrible wrong.”
State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, “When we took up this fight for the Child Victims Act, none of us thought it was going to be this tough or take this long. Government has a responsibility to stand up for the survivors of these heinous crimes.”
The Senate measure’s main sponsor, Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), added, “Finally, survivors will have the opportunity to seek justice against their abusers and hold any institutions who harbored them accountable. We would not be here today without the fierce advocacy of survivors across New York State. When the political leaders in this state refused to listen, you bravely told your stories. You demanded action. You created a movement. Now, as you seek justice, New York will stand with you.”