ROCHESTER (WXXI) – Supporters of the Child Victims Act hope the momentum of the #MeToo movement will improve their chances of getting the legislation passed in New York this year.
The measure would extend the statute of limitations in child sexual abuse cases, giving victims more time to pursue lawsuits against their perpetrators.
Right now, victims have until their 23rd birthday to seek a case. The law, if passed, would eliminate the statute of limitations for felony sexual offenses against a minor and allow survivors to bring civil cases up to 50 years following their attack.
It would also create a one year window in which anyone could file a lawsuit even if the statute of limitations had already expired in their case.
Some opponents of the measure argue that would clog up the courts, but Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks testified at a joint state budget hearing in Albany this week that he does not believe that would happen.
“There would be additional criminal cases, but I think we would be able to accommodate them. It would be nothing like the mortgage crisis from a number of years ago.”
Deb Rosen, executive director at Bivona Child Advocacy Center, said the effects of child sexual abuse are long-lasting and profound and it can be years before survivors are ready to come forward.
“It is simply unreasonable to expect that a person who has been victimized during their most vulnerable years would be able to collect themselves within an artificial period of time to take action against their perpetrator,” she said. “It flies in the face of what we know about the experience of sexual abuse and it flies in the face of victims’ rights.”
The Child Victims Act has bipartisan support in the state legislature. It passed 139 to 7 in the Assembly in 2017, but it has not been brought to the floor of the Senate for a full vote. Opponents of the measure include the Catholic Church, which says the one-year window for lawsuits would financially devastate the church.