GOP Senate should cease blocking authorized recourse for New Yorkers abused as children
January 2, 2018
The movement has awakened many to the wide range of sexual misconduct. We‘ve heard of powerful men repeatedly, with apparent impunity, accosting and assaulting women. The contentious Alabama Senate election shone a spotlight on accusations that GOP candidate Roy Moore had targeted young adolescent girls.
With so much news about and, finally, serious consequences for sexual harassment, assault and abuse, many New Yorkers might assume that those who were victims of abuse as children are given fair and ample opportunity to seek some measure of justice. But they would be wrong. Under state law, criminal charges against an accused molester, for most forms of abuse short of rape, must be filed before a victim is 23. Victims who want to seek redress in civil court can only sue a church, school or other institution before they are 21, and can only sue their abuser until they are 23.
Such limits on seeking justice are more than unfair. New York legislators have had in front of them for years to realign the statute of limitations to something that is fair and fits the timeline of trauma that victims of child sexual abuse can face. Yet the Republican-controlled Senate has failed to allow this bill to come to a vote.
“People can‘t really deal with this issue until they reach adulthood,” said Bob Hoatson, a victim of childhood abuse and longtime advocate for victims, told The Journal News/lohud Editorial Board. He joined three other victims and Marci Hamilton, a national expert on the abuse of minors, who talked about the need for New York to expand the statue of limitations for abuse victims seeking legal recourse.
Calling themselves , advocates are trying to turn up pressure on Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who has refused to allow legislation to come to the floor, and Senate Republicans who have supported him, including Sen. Terrence Murphy, R-Yorktown.
The Senate bill () would allow victims of childhood abuse to file civil actions until they are 50 and would allow the filing of criminal charges until a victim is 28. There would also be a one-year window when cases from any point in time could proceed.
It‘s hard to understand how Flanagan could prevent a floor discussion and vote on legislation that would support victims of childhood abuse. We‘ve learned so much about how and why victims often repress what happened to them, not even telling loved ones for years, until something — often news reports about abuse — inspires them to come forward. Right now, state law seems designed to protect abusers and the institutions that may have provided them cover.