New York State Republicans, Boy Scouts, and the Catholic Church
LAUREN EVANS Village Voice
An article by Lauren Evans from New York’s Village Voice summing up who is blocking the Child Victims Act and why. The article features Ana Wagner, the organizer of the Brooklyn Bridge Walk.
When Ana Wagner was nine years old, she was sexually abused by her father’s best friend, starting a pattern that would repeat for the next three years. It’s been two decades, but she still has trouble talking about it.
“I was a very nerdy little nine-year-old,” she told the Voice, exhaling shakily. “And puny. I was the shortest in my school for my grade.” Twenty years went by before Wagner summoned the strength to report her abuser to police, marching into a precinct house to file a report. But by then it was too late.
At that point, Wagner was thirty-two. As it stands, New York State law gives victims only until the age of twenty-three — five years after their eighteenth birthday — to either bring criminal charges or file a suit. While most other states gradually pushed back their statutes of limitations, New York never did, making its policies among the most restrictive in the country.
A typical sex offender molests an average of 117 children in his or her lifetime, according to a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. The idea that Wagner’s abuser is still out there, hurting other children, haunts her every day. “That guilt, I live with it, because I’m just one,” she said. “So there’s, like, 116 other people. Maybe I could have prevented 100.”
Wagner is a forceful proponent of the Child Victims Act, a bill first proposed in 2006 that she and many others are desperately hoping will pass the state’s legislature before its session ends on June 21.
The premise of the bill is simple, though like so many things forged in the fires of Albany, its actual text is needlessly complex. In essence, the CVA would lengthen the statutes of limitations for victims to seek justice against those who sexually abused them as children, with one version of the bill extending the deadline for a civil suit to fifty years.
This seems like a clear improvement to state Democrats, to victims, and to anyone else who understands that it can take years to fully process a traumatic event, especially one suffered in childhood. Governor Andrew Cuomo vowed to prioritize the Child Victims Act earlier this year, and though it’s unclear whether he will make good on his word, Wagner, who has personally met with the governor to push the bill, said he seemed to relate to the cause.