The Child Victims Act has languished in the New York State Senate for far too long. Reading the horrific report from the Pennsylvania grand jury about rampant sexual abuse and cover-ups by church officials makes it clear that it is long past time for us to sit down at the table, hammer out a final version of the bill and pass it in the Senate.
Each day, I tell my staff to go out and do the right thing. Providing access to justice for survivors of childhood sexual abuse is the right thing to do.
There are currently two bills in the Senate on this topic: one by State Sen. Catharine Young, R-57th District, and one by State Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-27th District. Both have merit. Remember, an estimated 80 percent of the victims of sexual abuse are assaulted by a family member or a friend with no direct tie to any institution like the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts or a university. I co-sponsor State Sen. Young’s bill, which creates a $300 million compensation fund for survivors of abuse and removes the criminal statute of limitations.
State Sen. Hoylman’s bill extends the civil statute of limitation going forward and allows survivors who were previously time-barred from accessing the courts a one-year window to try to win a civil suit against institutions that covered up or perpetuated the most heinous crimes against children. I was initially concerned that a window could produce volumes of frivolous lawsuits, but that has not been the case in other states that have reformed their laws. It is still difficult for survivors of any age to come forward and the courts must always weigh the evidence to determine credibility. Hoylman’s bill does not change the rules and the burden of proof is still on the victim.
If it helps bring this issue to a final resolution, I am open to supporting a window for civil suits. The length of that window should be negotiated with all parties at the table and these discussions should commence immediately.
There is one thing I want to make absolutely crystal clear: I will vote in favor of any version of the Child Victims Act that comes to the floor as long as I believe it represents a true opportunity to deliver a modicum of justice for the victims. Our responsibility lies with them, not with finding ways to excuse the perpetrators or those that tried to cover up their crimes.
It’s estimated that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be victims of sexual abuse. Edmund Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” It’s time to stop playing partisan politics and pass a bill that can become law.