ALBANY – Finally, child victims of pedophile priests, rabbis and scout masters will be allowed to seek justice.
Gov. Cuomo announced Friday he will for the second year in a row include language to create the Child Victims Act in the state budget he will propose on Tuesday.
But unlike last year, the Republicans are no longer in control of the Senate to block the measure and the Democrats in each chamber have made the issue a top priority.
“There has been a degradation of justice for childhood sexual assault survivors who have suffered for decades by the authority figures they trusted most,” Cuomo said. “That ends this year with the enactment of the Child Victims Act to provide survivors with a long-overdue path to justice.”
Legislative bill sponsors, including in the Assembly, which passed similar bills the past two years, say it could be taken up by the Legislature even before the budget is finalized in the spring.
“It’s not a matter of if we pass the Child Victims Act, it’s when we pass the Child Victims Act, said Senate bill sponsor Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan). “It’s possible the Legislature could act before the budget.”
Assembly bill sponsor Linda Rosenthal agrees, noting the budget isn’t due to be adopted until the end of March.
“The Assembly passed it twice and I don’t see why we wouldn’t consider passing it a third time,” Rosenthal said.
Most survivors and advocates for the bill, who have been aggressively working on the issue for more than a decade, were overjoyed that 2019 looks like the year their efforts will finally pay off.
“It has been a long and difficult 15 years as victims have had to come forward to make this happen, whether ready or not,” said Marci Hamilton, co-founder of New Yorkers Against Hidden Predators.
The governor’s bill, which hues closely to what the legislative Democrats have pushed, would give child sex abuse victims up to their 50th birthday to bring a civil lawsuit while the statute of limitation to bring a felony case would increase to a person’s 28th birthday, up from the current 23.
For misdemeanors, criminal charges would be able to be brought up to the victim’s 25th birthday, up two years from the current law.
The bill would also create create a one-year window to revive old cases that are time-barred under current law, something that was vehemently opposed by the Senate Republicans, the Catholic Church, Orthodox Jewish groups, the Boy Scouts of America, and insurance companies.
And it would treat public and private institutions the same. Currently, victims of child sex abuse must notify public entities within 90 days of their intention to sue. That timeframe would be eliminated.
The bill, if passed into law, “will shift the cost of the abuse from their shoulders to the ones who caused it, identify the predators hidden in our midst, and further reveal to the public the ways in which child abusers and enabling institutions endanger New York’s children,” Hamilton said.
Like Hamilton, survivor and advocate Kathryn Robb thanked Gov. Cuomo and the legislative Democrats.
“For too long victims of child sexual abuse fought the powerful in Albany, a place that allowed truth to be buried, healing denied, and justice forsaken in the darkness of greed, power and cover-up. For too long so many did so little. Until now,” Robb said.
Gary Greenberg, an upstate investor and child sex abuse survivor who created a political action committee to push for passage of the Child Victims Act, urged the Legislature to act on the legislation by the end of the month.
“While the governor’s support is appreciated, the fact that 150 kids a day are being sexually abused in (New York) is an epidemic. Victims have waited long enough and there has been plenty of debate on the CVA .The time has come to vote,” Greenberg said.
Dennis Poust, spokesman for the state Catholic Conference led by Timothy Cardinal Dolan, said “we look forward to reviewing the legislation.”