Dozens of child sexual abuse survivors from across the state descended upon the state capital last week to share with lawmakers their personal stories and the dire need to reform New York’s outdated statute of limitations for the crimes committed against them.
Unfortunately, their bravery seemed unappreciated by some who unceremoniously turned them away.
It wasn’t the first time that these survivors were ignored by the powerful. Hopefully, it will be one of the last.
With a little over a month left in this year’s legislative session, we have an opportunity to finally give these survivors their day in court and to ensure that future child victims of sexual predators aren’t denied theirs.
The state Senate must seize this opportunity to pass an omnibus Child Victims Act that eliminates the criminal and civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse crimes, allowing future victims to seek recourse against any individual who harms them and any public or private institution that covers up or enables the abuser.
Just as important, any bill we pass must create a one-year look-back period allowing survivors for whom the statute of limitations has expired the chance to file claims against their abusers. This is crucial for public safety because it will help identify predators who may still have contact with kids, as well as provide survivors a long-overdue opportunity for justice. We cannot and will not accept half measures. We need legislation that will protect our children and not simply give political cover to politicians.
Seven other states have given child sexual abuse survivors a similar opportunity to revive old cases. To date, more than 3,000 survivors across the country have filed claims against family members, schools, religious institutions and other organizations, uncovering hundreds of serial predators in the process.
Opponents of our legislation have raised the specter of a barrage of bogus lawsuits.
But according to legal experts, this argument is baseless. In fact, not a single false claim for child sexual abuse has been reported as a result of these laws in other states.
Albany can’t keep looking the other way on child sexual abuse crimes. The time to fix the statute of limitations is now. Justice and public safety demand it.
State Sen. Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) is the Democratic conference leader. State Sen. Hoylman represents Manhattan.