Alternative To New York’s Proposed Child Victims Act Does More For Victims, Sponsor Says

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BUFFALO, NY (WBFO) – As supporters of New York State’s proposed Child Victims Act urge lawmakers to get it passed next session, a Republican State Senator says an alternative bill she’s sponsoring would do more for child sexual abuse victims by fully eliminating statues of limitation and add clergy to the list of “mandated reporters.”

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Catharine Young, a Republican, represents New York State’s 57th Senate District.

State Senator Catharine Young, whose 57th Senate District covers the Southern Tier in Western New York, introduced a bill in May known as the Child Victims Fund. It would eliminate statutes of limitation entirely for criminal action and create a state compensation fund for victims, financed by an estimated $300 million from asset forfeiture money from the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

Current law gives victims until the age of 23 to pursue legal action, civil or criminal. Under the proposed Child Victims Act backed by Democrats in the State Assembly, victims would have until the age of 28 to seek criminal charges and until the age of 50 to sue for civil damages.

It passed the Assembly this year but stalled in the Senate, as it has for a dozen years. Senator Young says many cases would still not be brought to justice under the Child Victims Act.

“Often times, victims of child sexual abuse do not even really process it or start to deal with it until their into their 40s,” Young said. “Maybe they’ve blocked it out mentally. Maybe they just can’t deal with it.”

The Child Victims Act would be effective, she estimated, in only 20 percent of child sexual abuse cases.

“The vast majority of child sex abuse cases happen outside of an institution,” the senator said. “They happen in the home, where unfortunately it’s a family matter. It may be a babysitter. It may be a neighbor. The overwhelming majority of those victims, who are abuse by someone who doesn’t have deep pockets, will not get any compensation.”

Young’s proposed Child Victims Fund would eliminate statutes of limitation entirely for criminal action and create a state compensation fund for victims, financed by an estimated $300 million from asset forfeiture money from the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

The Child Victims Act, in contrast, could potentially cost taxpayers millions of dollars in compensation to victims, Young suggested.

“One of the institutions that could be sued would be public schools,” she said. “If that happens, then there would be a heavy cost to the taxpayers.”

In response to a new development in the Diocese of Buffalo’s sexual abuse scandal – the resgination of St. Mary’s Swormville pastor Father Robert Yetter following a new complaint against him – Erie County District Attorney John Flynn renewed his wish for state lawmakers to pass the Child Victims Act but admitted even that would prevent him from pursuing older cases.

“I’m not going to be able to go back to the 80s and 90s, no matter what,” Flynn said. “It’s more of going forward. Five years from now, ten years from now, if a family comes forward I’m not going to be able to say to them… I don’t want to be able to say to them I can’t do anything because the legislators didn’t pass the Child Victims Act. I’m never going to be able to go back to the 80s, unfortunately.”

The Child Victims Fund would also add members of the clergy to the list of “mandated reporters,” or those who would be obligated to report suspected abuse to the authorities. The bill would also require criminal background checks for employees and volunteers who work with children.

State Senator Tim Kennedy, in a recent interview with WBFO, blamed the current Senate leadership for preventing a vote on the Child Victims Act while saying there is strong bipartisan support for its passage.

Could Senator Young’s bill gain support in Albany?

“We have a ton of support and, frankly, we have 22 Senate sponsors on the bill I put in,” she replied. “One of the leading advocates, (child sex abuse survivor) Gary Greenberg has been extraordinarily supportive of the Child Victims Fund version.”

Greenberg helped Young craft her bill but that was met by resistance from both Senate leadership and Senate Democrats. Greenberg told the New York Daily News in July he is now convinced it will require a shift to a Democratic majority to get any action brought up for a vote.

One thought on “Alternative To New York’s Proposed Child Victims Act Does More For Victims, Sponsor Says

  1. The bill Senator Young is proposing and that the Senate might actually get to vote on this session is an insult to survivors of childhood sexual abuse and to the intelligence of all New Yorkers. It is a Trojan Horse, poison pill and red herring all rolled into one.   Its purpose is not to give survivors the extended denied access to justice they seek but to shift the conversation away from the Republican-controlled Senate’s stonewalling any legitimate Child Victims Act for a dozen years.

    For starters, Senator Young’s bill treats survivors differently from all other crime victims by inserting an additional, extra-judicial hurdle for the victims of child sexual abuse. New York State’s court system is good enough for every other crime, why do survivors of this one need a different process, one operating outside the regular judicial system?

    The Young bill could have come right out of Cardinal Dolan’s playbook. Like the Church’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, rather than attempting to bring sexual predators to justice, it focuses instead on establishing a fund, and one with a cap,  to pay claims for victims of abuse. Such a fund could be helpful as an add-on provision if there were no other source of compensation for a survivor, i.e., a negligent institution with liability insurance.

    But this approach does nothing to get or keep sexual predators away from children. Nor does it incentivize institutions to protect children instead of putting them in harm’s way by reassigning known abusers to new unsuspecting populations. Institutions that failed to keep children safe from sexual predators should be responsible for the costs of restitution and compensation.  They have been paying insurance premiums for decades to protect themselves against possible negligence claims.

    Does Senator Young think that these institutions, along with their insurance companies, should be given a free pass at the expense of survivors, when they have been spending millions of dollars lobbying Albany senators against any legitimate CVA bill for many years? Her bill does not provide for claims against the institutions that put children in harms way by dealing with cases they were well aware of by keeping the information secret and moving predators around thereby giving them fresh hunting grounds.

    To top it off, the funds that Senator Young wants to use for that compensation are already being used to help crime victims, which means she will have to steal from one subset of victims to help another subgroup. These are not the ones who should be paying the price for these crimes. They’ve already paid too high a price.

    Along with everything above, Senator Young’s bill does nothing to expand the civil statute of limitations going forward, which should be central to any SOL reform the Senate considers.

    Just more smoke and mirrors!

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