By Andrew Willis
The only goal of New York’s debated Statute of Limitations reform is protecting as many of New York’s children as we can.
The Omnibus Child Victims Act (S. 7296/A. 9877) may pass next year. In part because survivors will hold legislators accountable between now and the start of the next session. Because one child is one too many, and our legislators should know that.
The main opponent of this bill is the Roman Catholic Church whose Sunday plates dwindle as parishioners refuse to pay for the priestly sins of the past. But the sins are not just in the past. Bishops still protect sexually abusive priests. And New York’s legislators are protecting those bishops.
Almost a quarter (22%) of New York’s children are sexually abused before they reach 18 years of age. Meanwhile Gov. Cuomo sent a letter to the Legislature last Monday outlining six end-of-session priorities. Statute of Limitations reform didn’t make the list. Allowing restaurants to sell booze on Sundays before noon did.
“The whole place is dysfunctional,” Gary Greenberg, an upstate investor and a child sex abuse victim said “Alcohol on Sundays is more important than helping child abuse victims. It’s unbelievable those priorities he mentioned are more important than protecting kids and providing hope to people who have been through hell. But that’s his choice.”
The church says they will go bankrupt, close schools and stop charity services. Diocese have gone bankrupt after passing this bill, but taxpayers and church members have nothing to fear. The education and welfare services the church provide in communities are paid for by taxpayers. So why are the church really fighting this bill? They fear their secrets being revealed. Many diocese have records of other priests who offended. Perhaps that is why the Catholic Church spent $2M on major New York lobbying firms to block statute of limitations reform. One legislator even told me he had been threatened with excommunication by his bishop if he supported this bill.
The right to justice, to closure, should be available to all survivors. Justice identifies abusers. When California passed similar legislation over 330 previously unidentified abusers were identified. Identifying abusers protects children, as research shows that a child sex abuser can abuse up to 130 children, and they continue abusing well into their eighties.
Marci Hamilton, a law professor at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and author of “Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children,” is wrong when she says, ““The perfect is the enemy of the good. Moreover, in this arena it is difficult for survivors to handle the ups and downs of the legislative process, so they should not be punished for angst at any stage.”” Where protecting children is concerned, perfect should surely be the standard. And survivors aren’t in angst. They are disappointed, rightful frustrated, even angry, but more determined to pass the Omnibus Child Victims Act, S. 7296/A. 9877.
Survivors are fighting for the right of the next generation to grow up protected by our legislature. Protected from the trauma of sexual abuse.
The organizations, public and private, who have sheltered child abusers, knowingly enabling more abuse must be held accountable too. Then, at the very least, they have a financial incentive to use best practices that prevent abuse and decrease their own liability.
All children need to be protected. Today New York’s laws protect abusers as soon as the child is 23. Research shows it takes survivors an average of 21 years to disclose. That’s why 27,000 people signed the petition we presented to Senator Flanagan’s office, but he still opposes the bill. The Governor has met with survivors, Senators and the Assembly too. Survivors who have been lobbying for 10 years. But he didn’t include the bill in his legislative priorities.
New York’s child protection laws are some of the worst in the country. It’s time to pass the bill that protects all children.
That’s the right and proper thing to do.