All sex abuse survivors deserve a day in court

New York Daily News

February 17, 2022

By Dr. Robert Druger

Over the course of almost five decades and across two countries, the man who abused me and countless others — track coach and former Olympian Conrad Mainwaring — used his Olympic status to gain access to young male athletes in order to manipulate and abuse them. During Mainwaring’s time working at Syracuse University in the early 1980s, he abused me and many others under the deception of coaching and mentorship.

Because of New York State’s Child Victims Act (CVA), which was signed into law three years ago this month, I had legal recourse — but most of my fellow survivors do not.

I was a high school student at the time the abuse started and under the age of 18, which meant I was eligible to file a civil lawsuit thanks to the CVA’s lookback window. Most survivors of Mainwaring’s abuse were in college and 18 or older. Now, many years later, with the statute of limitations long passed, survivors who were adults are barred from any chance to pursue justice and have no recourse. That’s why I am fighting for passage of the Adult Survivors Act (ASA).

Before the CVA lookback window closed last August, thousands of survivors across the state filed cases against their abusers. These included Virginia Giuffre, who just settled her claim against Prince Andrew. The ASA would do the same exact thing, giving survivors who were over the age of 18 at the time of their abuse one year to go to civil court to sue their abuser — or the institutions that covered up or enabled the abuse — no matter how long ago the abuse occurred.

The ASA passed the state Senate unanimously last session but it languished in the Assembly. Just a few weeks into a new session, the Senate bill passed the Judiciary Committee and it is now making its way through the chamber.

When New York passed the CVA in 2019, lawmakers recognized that trauma’s impact on the brain, as well as the guilt and shame many survivors feel in the wake of their abuse, can delay victims’ disclosure time. As a medical professional, I know that trauma weakens our ability to remember details chronologically.

Although my abuse happened almost 40 years ago, I spoke of it to no one. I tried to rationalize it in silence. It was not until I connected with other survivors and realized the extent of the abuse and that I was not alone that I came forward.

I have since learned that it is very common for victims to keep sexual abuse silent for many years. Often there is no conscious memory of the abuse and it can manifest in other ways, such as irrational anger, addictions or unexplained physical ailments. Each person processes it differently, but by the time a survivor might come forward, restrictive statutes of limitations prevent them from holding their abusers accountable.

With the CVA, lawmakers also recognized the lengths that institutions — including the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts — will go to prevent survivors of sexual abuse from seeking justice in our courts. They recognized that for decades survivors had been swept under the rug, turned away from law enforcement, or shamed into silence.