Last year, #MeToo exploded into a worldwide form of activism, with women sharing their stories of sexual assault and harassment online and off. At its most powerful, the #MeToo movement is transcending social media and making a critical difference in our laws and in our lives.
That’s why activists like myself are uniting New Yorkers across the state to demand the state Senate pass the Child Victims Act, which would finally deliver justice to survivors of childhood sex abuse. These survivors have been ignored by archaic statutes of limitations that do a better job protecting predators than they do their victims.
When I was doing research into the statute of limitations in New York on sexual assault for Time’s Up, I was shocked, and frankly embarrassed, to learn that New York is one of the least victim-friendly states in the nation. Current law prevents survivors of some types of child sex abuse from filing most criminal and civil claims after they turn 23 years old.
It has taken decades and the support of thousands of women around this country for adult survivors to come forward with their own stories of sexual harassment and abuse.
Now imagine if you were victimized as a child. Most victims of childhood sexual abuse live quietly with their trauma well into their 40s before they are finally able to open up and come to terms with their victimization.
The common-sense reforms being promoted through the Child Victims Act by advocates like New Yorkers Against Hidden Predators would allow victims the opportunity to pursue criminal charges against their perpetrators well beyond the five years after they turn 18, and would also give them until age 50 to file civil charges.
The bill would also create a one-year “window” for previously unaddressed civil claims to be heard, so that victims who were sexually assaulted as children can bring the predators who are still out there, and the organizations that in some cases shielded their conduct, to justice.
This provision has been viciously contested by the institutions that have protected predators for decades. They have decided their own financial interests are much more important than justice for the victims of childhood sexual abuse.
Survivors and advocates have been working to pass the Child Victims Act in New York for over 10 years now. They’ve made hundreds of trips to Albany and to towns and cities across the state, bravely telling their stories to any lawmakers who would listen. Their relentless advocacy led to eventual passage of the Child Victims Act in the Assembly — five times in recent years — including last year, when it advanced with a 139-to-7 vote.
This past January, Gov. Cuomo put the legislation in his executive budget. Editorial boards led by this newspaper’s, and from Orange County to Nassau County, have articulated their strong support. And just last week, Quinnipiac University released a poll showing that 90% of New Yorkers support its passage.
Despite all of this, state Senate Republicans have refused to even allow a vote on the bill. A handful of special interest groups and lawmakers like Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, with the support of his rank-and-file members, have ensured it never sees the light of day.
In doing so, they continue to protect sexual predators who are out there and have victimized children in the past — and will continue to do so if allowed to skirt justice.
The barriers to preventing child sex abuse and holding predators accountable in New York are crystal clear: Flanagan and his fellow Republicans.
At a time when the struggles and hardships of women and children who have been sexually abused and harassed are becoming more apparent as victims find the courage to come forward, it is baffling these elected officials are acting as a roadblock.
Many don’t know that the #MeToo movement started more than a decade ago as a way to let sexual assault victims know they weren’t alone, no matter how hurt or debilitated they felt.
When it comes to sexual abuse and assault, children are the most vulnerable. We need to change the laws in New York to allow our children the time they need to come forward and to expose the predators who have committed these assaults and got away with it. The Child Victims Act is a piece of legislation that can show how we are truly entering a new era in addressing and adjudicating sexual assault, particularly for our most vulnerable.
Moore is an Academy Award-winning actress.