As is often the case in politics, a popular policy does not necessarily translate to successful passage. This trend is currently playing out in New York State with the Child Victims Act, a bill that would give sex abuse victims more time to file criminal charges and civil lawsuits.
New Yorkers overwhelmingly favor passing the bill, but Republicans declined to include it in this year’s budget. Those against it include the Catholic Church, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), and the American Insurance Association (AIA), which has spent $130,000 lobbying against the bill.
Currently a victim of childhood sex abuse in New York has until age 23 to sue his/her attacker. The statute of limitations is even shorter when a suit targets an institution — like a school or church — where the abuse took place. In that case, survivors can’t sue after they turn 21.
Criminal offenses like rape, aggravated sexual abuse, or sexual conduct against a child can be prosecuted at any time. However, the abuse often doesn’t fall within these limited categories, in which case the victim is forced to press criminal charges before they turn 23.
The proposed Child Victims Act would amend the law as follows:
- Survivors could file a civil lawsuit until they turn 50;
- Survivors could file criminal charges until they turn 28; and
- There would be a one-year window during which cases from any time could proceed in court.
Of particular concern for those against the bill is the provision of a one-year “lookback” period that allows victims to file lawsuits that were previously forbidden by the old statute of limitations.
All of this strikes me as a staggering admission of guilt by the Church and UFT. The insurance industry has unsurprisingly decided that profit margins are more important than people who have suffered irreparable harm.
There are many reasons victims do not come forward for years to report what happened to them. They are often dealing with severe psychological trauma, which sometimes goes untreated. Instead of punishing them with a restrictive time window, Albany needs to empower them by passing this bill.
I can only hope that the legislature realizes that the time for playing politics is over, and moves to pass this bill provide some small measure of justice to innocent children who have suffered unspeakable horrors.
Research by Alex Eidman