A colleague put me in touch with a man — I’ll call him Dan — who wanted to speak to me because he'd heard I was sponsoring legislation in Albany with Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins to bring justice to survivors of child sexual abuse.
Dan had been an excellent student in high school — top of his class, star athlete and bound for the Ivy League.
Professionally, he had soared too, until recently. Dan was depressed, lost his job and facing eviction because he couldn’t make the rent. His life had spun out of control, but he couldn't figure out why.
Approaching his 50th birthday and after numerous therapy sessions, Dan finally came to terms with the root cause — he’d been molested by his high school teacher.
The kicker? Dan’s life had fallen apart but his teacher was still in the classroom.
Unfortunately, Dan's story isn't at all unusual.
Survivors of child sexual abuse typically hit a wall at some point in their lives, leading sometimes to loneliness, depression, drug abuse and unemployment. Recognition by them of why, if at all, comes on average at age 42. And most frightening is the fact that their abusers in many instances still have access to children.
That's why creating a one-time, one-year “look back” window to allow survivors to revive civil cases against individuals and institutions is so important.
It’s simply not fair or just that survivors spend a lifetime dealing with the profound implications of the horrific crimes committed against them, while the monsters who stole their childhood remain free to repeat these atrocities against new victims.
We know from the seven other states that have passed such laws that “look back” windows pass constitutional muster and are an effective tool for rooting out serial abusers and finally giving child sexual abuse survivors their day in court.
Only if we allow old cases to be revived will we know the extent of the epidemic of child sexual abuse in New York. Hidden child predators will be identified and barred from access to kids, as in California, where a similar law identified close to 300 abusers.
Survivors will hopefully find closure. And the responsibility for these offenses will finally lie with the perpetrators and any public or private institutions that have harbored sex abusers in the past, or in many cases — like Dan’s — still do.
Hoylman, a Democrat, is a state senator representing Manhattan.