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June 20, 2019

#MeToo creator’s support of abuse bill stems from own experience

January 15, 2018

ALBANY — The founder of the “Me Too” movement cited her own experience with child sex abuse as a big reason she is backing a push in New York to make it easier for survivors to seek justice.

“The origins of the ‘Me Too’ movement are rooted in the protection of children,” Tarana Burke told the Daily News Monday in an email.

Burke is credited with a decade ago creating the “Me Too” movement that has exploded since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke last fall.

“It was my own experience with child sexual abuse and the similar experiences shared with me by the young people I worked with that prompted me to start doing this work,” Burke said.

Throughout the years, she said she has met many survivors who feel they have no recourse “once they find the strength to confront the reality of their abuse.”

Expanding the legal timeframe that victims can bring cases will help empower survivors, she said.

“Ultimately, as a society we have to find demonstrative ways to protect our children and interrupt sexual violence in all forms,” Burke said.

Burke, like other advocates, said she’d like to see Gov. Cuomo include the bill in his proposed state budget set to be introduced on Tuesday.

“I think that we know that things only work when they have resources behind it,” she said. “That would definitely be a sign that it’s an issue the governor is taking seriously and stands behind.”

The Child Victims Act has passed the Assembly several times the past dozen years — including last year — but has died in the GOP-controlled Senate.

“I look at New York as a leader in many ways on a lot of issues so it’s surprising that we’re not moving as quickly on this,” Burke said.

The bill would allow survivors to bring civil cases up until their 50th birthdays and felony criminal cases until their 28th birthdays. Currently, they have until their 23rd birthdays to bring such cases.

The bill also included a one-year window to revive old cases and treated 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.

Marci Hamilton, the CEO of Child USA, which has been advocating on behalf of the Child Victims Act, called Burke a “hero.”

She said the recent focus on sexual harassment in the entertainment, political and media arenas has shifted focus away from the abuse suffered by children.

“All the focus on harassment is important, but it’s good to see Tarana say it started on different issues,” Hamilton said. “Adults tend to move the children’s issues off to the sidelines.”

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