Actor and activist Corey Feldman challenging Senate GOP on Child Victims Act

Legislative Gazette photo by Maria Enea

Actor Corey Feldman and Team USA volleyball player Sarah Powers-Barnhard have joined the fight to push Senate Republicans to pass the Child Victims Act.

A coalition called “New Yorkers Against Hidden Predators” is gaining supporters in its drive to finally pass the Child Victims Act (S.809) this legislative session. Feldman hopes that his endorsement of the bill will help bring attention to the legislation in New York and apply pressure to those trying to keep it off the Senate floor.

“I am blessed to be in this. I hope my presence will bring new opportunities… When it comes to childhood abuse, there is no way to get that light back,” Feldman said.

The Senate bill, sponsored by Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan, would eliminate both the criminal and civil statutes of limitations in child sexual abuse cases in New York state. The bill would also allow a one year window for time-barred civil action lawsuits up to
50 years old to be heard.

The current statute of limitations for civil lawsuits allows legal actions relating to sexual abuse crimes to be brought to court within five years of the crime. The nature of the incident also affects the civil lawsuit. A person would have one year to sue an individual unless they belong to an institution like a church or school. The individual would then have three years to file a lawsuit.

When it comes to criminal cases, the five year window also applies. The five year countdown does not begin until a person turns 18, meaning the plaintiff would have until the age 23 to file a suit or press charges.

The Assembly has passed its own version of the Child Victims Act several times in recent years — including one written by Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal — and Cuomo has included the bill in his legislative priorities this year. Senate Democrats have shared a 2018 Quinnipiac Poll that shows 90.6 percent of New Yorkers support the bill.

“You know something about Goonies and Gremlins … They work in this building… We have to smoke them out,” Hoylman said, referring to two of Feldman’s films. The Senate version of the CVA has been in the Judiciary Committee since January 3.

Arguments against the bill are that a flood of lawsuits allowed by the look-back window could clog the courts with too many cases and false claims, and it would also bankrupt organizations that employed sexual predators.

Senator John Flanagan, R-East Northport, is considered to be the main obstacle to the bill’s passage.

“This is not a party issue. I’m not coming after you personally, Senator Flanagan. I am sure you are a good man,” Feldman said.

Feldman, an actor who first rose to famous in dozens of 80s films, has been vocal about his abuse working in Hollywood. As of today none of his abusers have faced justice. Feldman often says he also wants justice for his good friend and frequent co-star Corey Haim, who died in 2010 from an overdose. His autobiography Coreyography is a tell all book on his experiences, and he is also currently trying to finance the production of a film about child rape in Hollywood.

“We are in a moment in history where countless individuals are finding this courage to speak up, yet there are still so many voices that have not yet been heard: our children. New Yorkers should be ashamed of lawmakers who are effectively protecting hidden sexual predators that live in their communities, instead of protecting children,” Powers-Barnhard said.

Powers-Barnhard’s story of abuse is far from over. A class action lawsuit is currently being filed in Illinois against her high school coach Rick Butler who was accused of assaulting six teenage players over three decades.

However due to New York’s statute of limitations Powers-Barnhard is unable to sue Butler. Allegations were made against him in 1995 to the Ethics and Eligibility Committee of the USA Volleyball Association, but by then, the statute of limitations had run out for legal action. As of March 2018, Butler has been banned from USA volleyball and the Amateur Athletic Union.

Like Feldman, Powers-Barnhard is using the notoriety of her story to advocate for The Child Victims Act. She warned that people like Butler are still out there.

“It’s disgusting that New York lags so far beyond the times when it comes to protecting children from these sexual predators. It’s time for action from the Senate Republicans.” Feldman said.

Legislative Gazette photo by Maria Enea
Former USA Volleyball player Sarah Powers-Barnhard, who was abused by her coach, is also pressuring the New York State Senate to pass the Child Victims Act this session.

Feldman stood in solidarity with various other victims and advocates; including Marci Hamilton, founding member of the New Yorkers Against Hidden Predators and CEO of Child USA; Jason Gough, a former WNYT meteorologist, and others who shared their stories of being abused. Actress Julianne Moore has even published an op-ed for the New York Daily News urging New York lawmakers to pass the bill.

New Yorkers Against Hidden Predators is “targeting” 11 Republican senators by providing contact information for each and urging CVA supporters to contact them about passing the bill. Included are Senate Majority Leader Flanagan, Judiciary Committee Chair John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope, and several Republican members of the Judiciary Committee.

“The time when we shield predators from justice is over, and the careers and reputations of powerful serial sexual harassers and abusers and the people and institutions who protect them have been rightfully decimated,” Rosenthal said.