Bill Aims to Aid Sex Abuse Victims

By Michael O'Keeffe
New York Daily News
March 10, 2009

A state lawmaker from Queens plans to introduce legislation later this month that would give survivors of childhood sexual abuse, regardless of their age, a one-year window to file lawsuits against perpetrators.

New York State law prevents victims of childhood sexual abuse from filing lawsuits five years after their 18th birthday. The Child Victims Act would raise the statute of limitations for civil suits to 28 years old. The bill would also raise the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution from the victim's 19th birthday to the victim's 23rd birthday.

"This is about empowerment of victims and identifying sexual predators," said Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Maspeth), the bill's chief sponsor.

Two city high school coaches - Christ the King boys' basketball coach Bob Oliva and Nazareth Regional High School baseball coach Robert Mistretta - resigned this year from their schools after they were accused of sexual abuse.

The alleged victims of both men say the abuse took place decades ago, but they have been barred from filing lawsuits because of statute of limitations issues. Both Oliva and Mistretta have denied the allegations.

Experts and victim advocates say victims often are unable to acknowledge the psychological damage caused by sex abuse for years or even decades. The one-year window would help victims receive justice and publicly expose sex offenders, Markey said.

Wendy Murphy, a former prosecutor and sex-crime expert, said anecdotal evidence suggests that coaches, gym teachers and music teachers are more likely to be accused of sex abuse than other educators.

"They are allowed to break boundaries more easily," Murphy said. "They are allowed to touch children and to ask them intimate questions."


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