Advocates, lawmakers launch early effort to pass Child Victims Act in 2018

Photo courtesy of New Yorkers Against Hidden Predators

Survivors, legislators and children’s advocates are organizing early with the goal of finally getting the Child Victims Act across the finish line and on to the governor’s desk before the end of the 2018 legislative session.

One group, New Yorkers Against Hidden Predators, kicked off its advocacy for the coming session with a protest outside the office of Sen. Terrence Murphy, R-Yorktown, “encouraging” him to come out in support of the Child Victims Act, according to the press release from the group Wednesday.

The group also began running digital ads urging the senator’s constituents to call him and “tell him to pass the Child Victims Act now.”

Courtesy of NYAHP
The digital ad NYAHP has begun to run in the New York’s 40th Senate District.

Wednesday’s protest and the new digital ads are the first actions in a larger effort to apply pressure to Senate Republicans who have repeatedly kept CVA bills off the Senate floor.

“The Child Victims Act will reform New York’s broken legal system, which currently protects sexual predators and denies victims justice,” said Marci Hamilton, founding member of New Yorkers Against Hidden Predators and CEO of CHILD USA. “The trauma of abuse disables many victims from disclosing their abuse. Predators thrive when the statutes of limitations expire before the victim can come forward. The Child Victims Act will identify New York’s hidden predators and give victims their day in court.”

The Child Victims Act is a bill, A.5885-a/S.6575, that seeks to reform New York’s statute of limitations in regards to the sexual abuse of children. As the law stands now in New York, a child has until they are 23 years of age to take action against an abuser, civilly or criminally.

The new laws would expand the statute of limitations by starting the five-year clock when the survivor turns 23 instead of when they turn 18, effectively raising the age at which criminal action can be taken from 23 to 28. The legislation also raises the age for civil action to 50.

Gary Greenberg holding a press conference urging the passage of the CVA before the end of the 2017 session.
Gazette photo by Rob Piersall

New York’s statute of limitations on childhood sexual assault claims are viewed as some of the most regressive in the nation, something supporters of the bills say amounts to the protection of predators in New York instead of victims.

“Senator Murphy has a simple choice to make: he either stands with families in his district, or with hidden sexual predators who are destroying innocent lives across Westchester,” said Stephen Jimenez, founding member of NYAHP and abuse survivor. “Senator Murphy and his colleagues in Albany have been complicit in allowing child abuse to continue in New York, and it’s time to demand that they pass the Child Victims Act.”

NYAHP is not alone in their fight. Outspoken survivor and advocate Gary Greenberg, founder of Protect NY Kids and its campaign finance arm Fighting For Children PAC, is joining forces with other interested parties to bring the CVA fight to New York.

Greenberg, along with Dale Driscoll, founder of Brittany’s Law and Nikki DuBose, fellow survivor and national CVA advocate, founded a new nonprofit called The Artist’s League for Change. They recently established an office in California and are now turning their attention to setting up a base in Albany.

“This coalition will be advocating for the Child Victims Act, Brittany’s Law to register convicted domestic violence criminals, Erin’s Law and to stop the insane practice of Conditional releases for serial Child rapists in New York state,” said Greenberg.

The Child Victims Act would also create a one-year look back window during which victims of abuse can take legal action against their abusers. This is the provision that has become the sticking point for the bill’s primary opponent, the Catholic Church.

The church has seen its financial liability surpass the billion dollar mark in California, where a law similar to the CVA, that includes the look back window, has already been passed. They say that any law with a look back window opens them up to a potential liability that would cripple their ability to provide social services to the elderly and indigent. They also say that retroactive punishment forces current members of the church to pay for crimes of the past.

However, advocates and lawmakers believe that the national conversation on abuse currently unfolding will help apply public pressure to the Senate.

“It’s clear we’re in the midst of a cultural reckoning on issues of sexual assault. Whether it’s Harvey Weinstein or Roy Moore, the #MeToo movement has captured the nation’s attention. This, coupled with Governor Cuomo’s vocal support of the Child Victims Act, has given us a real s

Sen. Brad Hoylman addressing the press about the child victims act at the end of the 2017 legislative session.
Gazette photo by Thomas Giery Pudney

ense of momentum for the bill moving into the budget and the legislative session,” said Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan, reached by email on Thursday.

“New York, next to Alabama, has the worst laws on the books for these crimes, so I think opposition to fixing New York’s laws is fast becoming untenable,” added Hoylman. “I’m hopeful for a breakthrough and look forward to working with survivors and advocates to finally provide them the justice that is long overdue.”

Sen. Hoylman’s sentiment was echoed by Greenberg, who shares the believe that the #metoo movement has brought the debate about sex crimes to the mainstream.

“The Republican party in New York must not follow the national Republican party in supporting predators,” said Greenberg “The #metoo movement has awoken a nation to the epidemic of sexual abuse in our country. I truly believe if the New York Senate Republicans do not take action to give justice to victims, they will go the way of the dinosaurs.”

“Gov. Cuomo, the governor of the worst state for reforming Child Sexual abuse laws, must put the Child Victims Act in his 2018-2019 budget and forcefully demand the legislature take action this session and stand publicly with all victims,” added Greenberg.

The bill, despite passing the Assembly by a huge margin, never made it onto the Senate floor vote. Instead, the bill died in Senate Rules Committee — after being moved there by the committee’s chair and long time CVA opponent Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan — from the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Sen. Brad Hoylman, the bill’s sponsor, is chair.