By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Survivors of child sex abuse joined local elected officials, religious leaders and advocates at the Fearless Girl statue on Tuesday to push Governor Andrew Cuomo to include legislation reforming the statute of limitations for childhood sex abuse in the 2018 budget, prior to the governor’s State of the State address Wednesday afternoon.
State Senator Brad Hoylman, a sponsor of the Child Victims Act, said that the legislation hasn’t been passed because of pressure from “powerful institutional forces” like yeshivas and churches.
“These institutions have covered up these crimes for decades and have lobbied against it but the pressure has been building and we felt it could be different this year,” Hoylman said.
According to statistics from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18, but under current State law, childhood sex abuse survivors only have until age 23 to bring criminal charges or seek civil relief.
The legislation would increase the statute of limitations for certain sex offenses committed against a child from age 23 to 28, increase the civil statute of limitations from the age of 23 to age 50, remove special protections for public institutions that have acted as a shield against liability and create a one-year look-back window to allow survivors over the age of 23 to seek retrospective civil relief. The bill passed in the Assembly last year but did not make it to the Senate floor.
The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York (DAASNY) came out in favor of the Child Victims Act last year and Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance announced his support for the legislation this past Tuesday.
“This bill reflects what we know about child sexual assault today: it can take a long time for someone to be ready to report it to law enforcement, and this delay is common, it is understandable, and it should not bar a survivor from seeking justice,” Vance said. “Abusers are frequently someone a child trusts the most: a family member, a guardian, a babysitter, or a teacher. The trauma caused by these acts, combined with the fear and stigma in coming forward, take time to overcome. The Child Victims Act acknowledges the realities of these crimes and our modern-day understanding of childhood trauma. It would enable our prosecutors to hold more abusers accountable and get justice for more survivors.”