Albany, NY Supporters of the Child Victims Act are celebrating what they believe will be the final passage of the bill meant to provide justice for victims of sexual abuse.
Gary Greenberg, the driving force behind the Child Victims Act, says New York State needs to eliminate the statute of limitations.
“There should be no statute of limitations on such a heinous crime as child sexual abuse,” he said during a press conference at the Legislative Office Building in Albany on Monday.
Mark Meyer Appel, a Jewish advocate has been spearheading this effort for over a decade.
At 7, Gary survived sexual abuse at the hands of serial predator Louis VanWie.
The Child Victims Act failed repeatedly to pass in the Senate mostly due to a one-year “look back” which would allow victims to sue their abusers or organizations that protect them.
The biggest detractors of the bill have been the Catholic Church and some within the Observant Jewish community, which they feel could be vulnerable to civil suits regarding sexual abuse claims.
Greenberg used his own money to form a political action committee to help vote out Republicans who stood in the bill’s way. In November, five seats were flipped from Republican to Democratic in the Senate. He’s now confident that during the 2019 session the democratic majority will pass the bill.
“And the governor will sign the bill and we are going to have a Child Victims Act, hundred percent”, he said before a crowd of lawmakers and supporters.
Heath Bromley says he knows how important the bill is for children and adults. Due to the statute of limitations, his abuser a priest named Gary Mercure escaped justice in New York but not in Massachusetts, while crossing state lines where Mecure took boys on trips for the purpose of sexually assaulting them.
The former priest was convicted of the crimes in that state because Massachusetts does not have a statute of limitations on sexual abuse crimes.
“We should be in that Senate right now passing this law, first. Right now,” Bromley said.
The bill that has passed only in the assembly currently reads that the statute of limitations would end at age 28. Greenberg is pushing for eliminating it altogether.
The Child Victims Act recognizes that the existing statute of limitations provides cover to those who prey on children. It’s long past time to change that dynamic according to advocates, the majority of politicians and law enforcement personnel.
New York is among the most restrictive states in allowing victims of sexual abuse from years ago to call their alleged perpetrators to account. As the law stands, victims have until their 23rd birthday to bring civil and criminal cases. The Child Victims Act would extend the age to 50 for civil cases and to 28 for felony criminal cases.
Part of the controversy over the law is the inclusion of a one-year “look-back” period during which victims could file lawsuits for assaults dating back decades.
Organizations opposing that law can be presumed to fear its repercussions, knowing that abuses occurred and that no one rescued those children. They are telegraphing their own sense of shame but asking for their actions and inactions to be exempted from a law that is specifically meant, as best as possible, to settle accounts that are long out of balance.
Many religious and educational organizations that had long been criticized for covering up child sexual abuse cases decades ago had for years waged fierce opposition to the legislation, in part claiming that frivolous lawsuits could bankrupt them or overrun the court systems. The years that have elapsed since the alleged abuse took place could also make it difficult for those who are falsely accused to defend themselves, they said.
Greenberg, at Monday’s news conference, noted that while child sexual abuse cases involving “a priest or a rabbi” often garner the most attention, most of the assaults are carried out by family members or someone close to a family.
The Child Victims Act provides survivors of childhood sexual assault with a long-overdue path to justice.
We will pass and enact it as a key part of the Justice Agenda. And we will do it in the first 100 days. pic.twitter.com/6CDWZzz0bB
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) January 11, 2019