'Child Victims Act' would bring hidden predators to justice
By Kathryn Robb
January 16, 2018
When I first heard the claims of child sexual abuse against Alabama’s disgraced former Senate candidate Roy Moore, I was sick to my stomach. But as a long-time advocate and abuse survivor, I was not surprised that such a predator was able to remain hidden in plain sight for so long.
Despite the national conversation turning to rampant, and previously unreported, sexual abuse, New Yorkers still live in a state with laws that diminish victims and protect predators. In fact, New York is one of the worst states to be a victim of child sexual abuse, on par with Alabama.
New York has among the most restrictive statute of limitations for child sexual abuse crimes – barring most victims in Dutchess County and across the state from taking their abuser to court after they turn 23 years old. For most victims, it takes decades to report sexual abuse from their childhood, and the current statute of limitations means many who come forward are still denied their day in court.
Not only do the current laws hinder justice, they leave accused sexual predators free to do more harm. They keep victims like those of Roy Moore silent for decades, and entire communities unaware of the sexual predators in their midst.
But as voters from Alabama proved recently, Americans of all political stripes are no longer willing to tolerate sexual predators any longer. The tides are turning.
This year, we launched New Yorkers Against Hidden Predators to raise awareness about the consequences of our outdated laws, and push lawmakers like state Sen. Sue Serino, R-Hyde Park, to finally pass the Child Victims Act in 2018. The Child Victims Act would increase both the criminal and civil statute of limitations of child sex abuse crimes, and create a one-year window for claims from any time to be heard.
This last part is critical, and we cannot underestimate the importance of the one-year window to ensure justice and prevent future abuse. The window is the only way for countless victims, who were abused decades ago, to finally hold their perpetrators accountable and stop them from committing further abuse in the communities where they currently roam free. Presently, sexual predators are awarded for the silence they create in their victims; they are awarded by an archaic statute of limitations that protects them, not the victims.
After years of obstruction in Albany, it’s time for our elected officials, particularly in the State Senate, to face this national moment of reckoning.
On her Senate website, Serino says that our state government “needs to prioritize measures that will directly benefit our local communities.” I couldn’t agree more. And there is no greater direct benefit to New York communities than keeping innocent children safe from abuse and harm.
But Serino has been part of the problem, not the solution, when it comes to putting children first in Albany.
She has allowed her Senate colleagues to put powerful interests over her constituents; to protect predators over families. She has been unwilling to publicly support the bill or call on her Senate leadership to allow members to vote on the matter.
It’s a simple choice, but one that has been poisoned by too much politics for too long. Now, as we approach the beginning of a new session in Albany, it’s a new day in the country and in New York state. Each courageous “silence breaker” who tells their story brings us closer to justice for all.
As we campaign from Putnam Valley to Poughkeepsie for passage of the Child Victims Act, let us make clear that the era of excuses, obstruction, and complicity has come to an end.