Lawmakers hope film will draw attention to Child Victims Act



Assemblywoman Margaret Markey and Senator Brad Hoylman are sponsors of a bill that would eliminate the civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse crimes. The legislation also includes a one-year window during which the statute of limitations is suspended so older victims can seek justice.

Markey will screen the Academy Award winning film “Spotlight,”  in the Empire State Plaza this week during a two-day event organized to raise support for the Child Victims Act, The film depicts the true story of how The Boston Globe uncovered a scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese.

The Child Victims Act (A.2872/S.0063A) would eliminate the current statute of limitations, which requires a child abuse victim to file criminal or civil charges by the time they turn 23 years of age. The bill would also create a one-year window during which older victims of previous crimes could come forward to seek justice for the crimes committed against them. The sponsors say the problem with the current system is that there are many child abuse victims who take years, and sometimes decades, to speak about or even tell anybody what happened.

The bill has been adopted in the Democratic-controlled Assembly four times since 2006, but has never made it to the Republican-controlled Senate floor for a vote. Last year, despite having a record number of sponsors, including many Republicans, the bill did not make it through once again.

Assemblywoman Markey recently spoke about how New York is among the worst states in the nation for how it treats childhood sexual abuse victims. She said that the state ranks near the bottom among the 50 states in that category, and that this is the year to change it. As of right now, the Child Victims Act has more than 60 co-sponsors in the Assembly.

A companion bill (A8567/S6436) will eliminate the criminal statute of limitations for child sex abuse in the future.

Markey originally wanted to add five years to the current statute of limitations, extending the victims’ time until age 28. But after the uncovering of sexual assaults of children that occurred at Penn State, Syracuse University, and Horace Mann School in The Bronx in recent years, she revised the bill.

Hoylman added that the current statute of limitations is protecting the wrong people, and it gives a free pass to sexual predators as well as those who cover for them, as well as denies justice to the victims of these crimes. He also stated that reforming the current laws would help to expose the predators that are still at large and continue to abuse children.

“In his acceptance speech at the Academy Awards, the producer of Spotlight expressed hope that his film would ‘give a voice to survivors’ of child abuse and ‘amplify that voice into a choir,’” said Hoylman. “With a screening of Spotlight for my Albany colleagues, we hope to do just this.  It’s time for lawmakers in both houses to pass the CVA and provide justice to survivors and get perpetrators of these heinous crimes off the street and out of contact with kids.”

In California, a similar legislation has been passed, including the one-year window, which resulted in over $1.2 billion in settlements by the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church in New York supports revising the current statute of limitations beyond the age of 23, but does not support the one year window period for past offenses.

Markey will be screening “Spotlight” at a restaurant inside the Capitol complex on Wednesday, May 4th, and Josh Singer, the screenwriter of the film, as well as Neil Huff, an actor in the film, and Philip Saviano, the real-life victim that he portrayed, will all be in attendance.