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Kid abuse survivors use #MeToo in fight for Child Victims Act


ALBANY — Child sex abuse survivors urged state lawmakers on Tuesday to heed the message of the #MeToo movement and pass legislation making it easier for them to seek justice in the courts.

The survivors said the explosion of high profile sexual harassment and abuse cases — including the abuses committed by the former doctor for U.S.A. Gymnastics, Larry Nassar — show the need for the GOP-controlled Senate to finally pass the Child Victims Act.

“There just doesn't exist a better time than right now,” Bridie Farrell, a former speedskater and sexual abuse survivor, said at a press conference outside the Senate chamber.

Noting that the Assembly has previously passed a version of the bill and Gov. Cuomo included it as part of his recent budget proposal, Farrell and other survivors said Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Suffolk County) must allow a vote on the bill or face the wrath of voters in November.

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Bridie Farrell, a noted speedskater and a survivor of sexual abuse, in Albany as part of a two-day lobbying effort calling on legislators to pass the Child Victims Act on May 3, 2016.

(Jefferson Siegel/New York Daily News)

“If you don't know why it's time to pass this, Senator Flanagan, then go back and watch the accounts from U.S.A. Gymnastics,” said Farrell, referring to the riveting statements made by several gymnasts at Nassar’s sentencing.

“People are going to find out, the more they pay attention, that it is the New York State Senate that is blocking this bill,” said Brian Toale, who was abused as a child on Long Island.

Flanagan, however, would not commit to allowing a vote on the measure.

“I've said all along we will continue to have conversations on that,” Flanagan told reporters. “It is a very important issue.”

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Reese Witherspoon used her time at the podium during the ELLE Women In Hollywood Celebration on Oct. 16, 2017 to shed some light on being sexually assaulted by a director at age 16. "I've had multiple experiences of harassment and sexual assault, and I don't speak about them very often, but after hearing all the stories these past few days and hearing these brave women speak up tonight, the things that we're kind of told to sweep under the rug and not talk about, it's made me want to speak up and speak up loudly because I felt less alone this week than I've ever felt in my entire career.", she added.

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The bill proposed by Cuomo would allow survivors to bring civil cases up to 50 years from the attack and would eliminate the statute of limitations for any felony sexually related offense committed against someone under the age of 18. Currently, they have until their 23rd birthdays to bring cases.

Front page of the New York Daily News on April 1, 2016.

(New York Daily News)

Cuomo’s bill also includes a one-year window to revive old cases and treats public and private institutions the same. Currently, those abused in a public setting like a school have just 90 days from the incident occurring to formally file an intent to sue.

Religious groups like the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish community oppose the provision that would open a window to revive old cases.

Farrell said it would be a “misuse of power” if the Senate did not pass the bill.

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“While we speak about #MeToo, it is very important to speak about #KidsToo,” Farrell said.