The Assembly passed a long-contested Child Victims Act bill Wednesday afternoon, giving childhood sexual abuse victims hope they may soon have the opportunity seek justice for crimes committed years ago.
Passing by a margin of 139-7, the Child Victims Act (A.5885-a) extends the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution of sexual acts committed against a child from 23 to 28 years of age, and allows for civil action until the victim’s 50th birthday. The bill also allows for a one year “lookback window” during which victims are allowed to file suit against abusers formerly protected by the statute of limitations in New York state, which is one of the most limited in the country.
This one-year window has been the main sticking point for this bill over the last several years. Churches and other organizations fear an onslaught of legal actions for abuse that may have happened decades ago, holding innocent members and donors financially responsible for crimes they didn’t commit.
On the other hand, proponents of the bill say allowing previous victims to seek compensation is the only way victims will find justice and closure.
“Legislators have a responsibility to protect kids. Senate Republicans have failed miserably at this.” said Gary Greenberg, an abuse survivor and founder of the Fighting for Children Public Action Committee. “I call on this governor to speak up now . . . provide safety, protect our kids, bring justice for victims and take predators off the street.”
The Child Victims Act has had a long legislative life. A CVA bill was first introduced 11 years ago. Some version of the bill has passed the Assembly every year, but has not made it out of committee in the Senate.
“After years of fighting for justice and to protect children from dangerous pedophiles, it is past time that the Legislature puts the interests of … children first and finally passes the Child Victims Act,” said Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, the bill’s primary sponsor in the Assembly.
“Year after year, the Assembly has led on this issue, while the pleas of survivors have fallen on deaf ears in the Senate. Inaction is indefensible; and running out the clock is not an option. We demand a vote on this bill this session.”
“The majority of Republicans in the Assembly voted for a Child Victims Act,” said Greenberg via email Thursday. “The leadership of the Senate must stand up and allow a vote and follow the lead of Republicans in the Assembly.”
The Senate bill, sponsored by Brad Hoylman, has been referred to the Rules Committee.