Victim advocates push to pass Child Victims Act in Albany

(Photo courtesy of Catholic Diocese of Buffalo)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Victims of child sex abuse in New York say they’re being denied their day in court. They say of the catholic church and other powerful groups are stopping lawmakers from passing a bill.

It would change the statute of limitations on filing criminal charges against an abuser.

The bill would create a one-year window to allow for lawsuits no matter when the abuse occurred. The church says this would cause the institution  financial harm if they became responsible for decades-old cases that would open only civil cases. They also say it wouldn’t actually put any offenders behind bars.
In a statement, the New York State Catholic Conference says,

“The Catholic Church has zero tolerance for sexual abuse and supports proposals in the New York State Legislature to extend the time allowed under the law to file criminal charges or civil lawsuits against those who abuse children.

Sexual abuse is a societal scourge. It knows no boundaries. Protecting children from sexual abuse and safeguarding the legal rights of victims requires a comprehensive approach. Proposals that would permit only some survivors more time to sue abusers based on meaningless distinctions like where the abuser worked or where the abuse took place offend common sense and fairness. Abuse is abuse, no matter whom the abuser is, no matter where the abuse occurs.

While the Catholic Conference strongly supports efforts to prospectively increase the criminal and civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse, the above-referenced legislation is seriously flawed in that it contains a statute of limitations “window” to open up previously time-barred civil claims going back indefinitely. Therefore, the Catholic Conference must strongly oppose this legislation.”

Victim advocates say it often takes victims of child sex abuse years or even decades to report their abusers.

Linda McCartan, Director of Family Preservation Services with Child & Family Services of Erie County said, ”
“It’s not a one size fits all for children. Some children will immediately speak to something happening to them. But we know for others adults, it can take a long time for them to come forward. I think for the ones who want to be able to speak up and speak for it, there is a clear benefit to extending the statue of limitations. But, I don’t think it has to be that way for everyone. We know that people can heal very well with or without that legal action.”

Governor Cuomo included a proposal similar to the legislation sought by advocates in his annual list of legislative goals this year. A similar law in california, passed in 2002, resulted in catholic dioceses there paying $1.2 billion dollars in legal settlements

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