New York’s Child Victims Act Seeks to Relax Statute of Limitations for Adults Making Child Sex Abuse Claims

Statute-of-Limitations-sex-abusePending legislation may enable adults alleging prior child sex abuse to file civil claims against abusers—and the institutions that employed those alleged abusers. The proposal affects victims in New York State.

As we’ve mentioned, the bill, initially introduced in 2006, has seen numerous quashing attempts from the NY Senate and Roman Catholic and Orthodox Jewish officials who opposed earlier iterations, arguing that they were unjustly aimed at religious institutions. In fact, the measure failed four times, noted The Jewish Daily Forward. If the legislation passes, a number of lawsuits are expected to be filed against Jewish and Catholic institutions over accusations they failed to report child sex abuse allegations to law enforcement.

“I’ve never been more optimistic we can succeed in 2013,” Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, the Child Victims Act sponsor, said. In the state senate Jeffrey Klein, Democrat, said he would oppose the bill, but Markey remains undeterred, saying that other states have successfully passed similar legislation and a spate of similar bills are being considered nationwide, The Jewish Daily Forward said.

At issue is the statute of limitations, which many experts say can be challenging given that many victims do not always remember their childhood abuse within statute time frames. Consider that recalling sexual abuse is not a quick process and, The Jewish Daily Forward pointed out, involves understanding and confronting the abuse and shoring up the strength needed to face the issue in court, a typically traumatic process. The statute imposes a time frame in which abuse victims must legally file civil claims or prosecutors must seek indictments, The Jewish Daily Forward explained. For example, in New York, victims have until their 23rd birthday to file a civil claim of child sexual abuse.

The issue of sex crimes has been making headlines in a broadening array of areas. For instance, we previously wrote that filmmaker and survivor, Chris Gavagan, was also pushing to change New York child sexual abuse reporting laws. According to Gavagan—speaking about the prior iteration of the proposed legislation—New York lawmakers who may fail to approve the bill meant to extend the statute of limitations for molestation cases in the state, are, in essence, giving sexual predators a free pass to continue their reign of terror on children. Should the Child Victims Act not pass, he added, the ensuing result will be like signing a “pardon for 1,000 child rapists.”

At that time, Assemblywoman Markey pointed out that one in every five U.S. children are sexually abused, a problem she described as “America’s dirty little secret.” And, while some sex-abuse scandals have made headlines, they’ve done little to reform outdated laws, said the Assemblywoman. “Those cases have attracted enormous attention, but there is not much new about the pattern behind the headlines,” Markey said. “Someone in a position of trust and influence over a child has violated that trust to molest or rape them … only many years after abused children become adults are they able to come to terms with what happened to them, and that means it takes place many years after our woefully short statute of limitations expire,” she added.

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