‘The Law Penalizes Us for Remaining Silent’: New York Sex Abuse Survivors Won’t Stop Pushing for Reform

Jezebel – The Slot

Ellie Shechet

MANHATTAN—Past a crush of tourists posing delightedly in front of Wall Street’s “Charging Bull,” a small crowd gathered around the “Fearless Girl” statue as lawmakers and childhood sexual abuse survivors called for passage of the Child Victims Act.

Repeatedly derailed over the years in the New York State Senate, the CVA would lift the state’s five-year statute of limitation on childhood sexual abuse, which requires most survivors to take legal action by the age of 23—although many survivors, out of fear or shame, don’t speak out until decades later. The bill would also create a one-year civil “window” for survivors over 23 to bring cases retrospectively, and would remove the 90-day notice of claim requirement that protects public institutions from being held accountable past that time frame. The Fearless Girl’s questionable corporate roots notwithstanding, advocates leaned heavily on the message of standing up to powerful interests.

The state of New York has fallen far behind the majority of the country with one of the narrowest windows for victims of childhood sexual abuse to bring civil or criminal charges—a notable gap that’s come under scrutiny alongside reports of abuse at elite schools like Choate and Horace Mann, as well as horrifically widespread claims of child sexual abuse against Catholic priests. Last week, the New York Daily News reported that Senate Republicans sent the legislation to the Rules Committee in order to avoid a vote. “The State Senate spat in the face of survivors last week,” CVA sponsor Sen. Brad Hoylman shouted hoarsely at the presser. Republicans control the Senate by a slim margin in New York, aided by rogue Democrats in the Independent Democratic Caucus; the state Catholic Conference, which strongly opposes a one-year lookback, has spent millions over the years lobbying to block versions of this bill from passage.

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