After being blocked in the Republican-controlled New York legislature since 2015, Senator Brad Hoylman’s and Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal’s Child Victims Act has finally passed both houses. It now only needs to be signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but given that he specifically mentioned the bill in presenting his Executive Budget, a veto seems unlikely.
“For years, survivors of child sexual abuse have looked to Albany for justice and for years, their pleas have gone unanswered,” Hoylman said. “But it’s a new day and a new Democratic majority.”
The law has three components: it extends the amount of time felony sexual abusers of children can be prosecuted to 28 years from 23, it allows child victims to sue their abusers and abettors until they are 55 years old, and will allow anyone of any age to sue their abusers, no matter how long ago the abuse occurred. This last section, known as the “revival period,” was “non-negotiable,” according to Hoylman and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“One of the things the revival period can do is not only allow survivors their day in court but frankly identify predators in whatever setting they might be in, religious or otherwise,” said Hoylman.
The Child Victims Act was opposed by Senate Republicans but has been quickly brought to the floor again as a part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Justice Agenda. Insurance companies have lobbied against the revival period aspect of the bill, as they would be forced to pay damages to victims whose cases had previously been buried. The Catholic Church has likewise opposed this section until recently, citing a possible loophole that would except public institutions from the same kind of scrutiny that the Church will face.
“We hear a lot of talk about the Catholic Church–and certainly, we’ve had our share of problems–but most abuse occurs in other forums,” said Catholic Conference spokesperson Dennis Proust.
“I feel I am wholly in line with what Pope Francis has said on this issue. I understand the church bureaucracy’s issue. There could be financial ramifications. There could be embarrassment,” Gov. Cuomo said of Catholic criticisms of the bill. “And that’s because of the way they handled the issue.”
The bill purports to benefit even those without any cases to bring against child sexual abusers, by outing potential predators to the public.
“There’s a very important safety component,” said Hoylman. “Through the rules of evidence and normal discovery, it helps point out the fact that some predators may still be working in schools or have contact with children because they’ve never been identified as such.”
“The horrific sins of past abuse can never be absolved, but the passage of the Child Victims Act will deliver an opportunity for accountability and redress that survivors in New York have never before had,” said Rosenthal.