Child Victims Act Gets Unanimous Senate Support

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Faith, Queens, NY

By Jorge I. Dominguez-Lopez

The New York Assembly and Senate approved the Child Victims Act Monday, January 28, by an overwhelming majority. The act will extend the state statute of limitations to allow for criminal charges against sexual abusers of children until their victims turn 28 for felony cases, up from the current 23.

The new law also allows victims to seek civil action against their abusers and institutions that enabled them until they turn 55. And it will open up a one-year, one-time-only period to allow all victims to seek civil action, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, in a statement about the new law said:

“Today the New York State Legislature passed, and Governor Cuomo is expected to sign into law, the Child Victims Act. We pray this landmark legislation will help bring some measure of healing to all survivors of child sex abuse by offering them a path of recourse and reconciliation. This legislation is another important step to aid all victim-survivors, not just in the Church, but across all of society as we work to address this terrible evil.

“Within the Church, we all know the devastating toll child sex abuse takes on its victims and its effects throughout adulthood. We have taken steps to assist survivors in healing from the damage. We have offered outreach to victims and provided them with numerous resources such as therapy provided by independent licensed mental health practitioners and varying support groups. We have also offered our Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) which has provided for many victims an important acknowledgment they wanted from the Church that this did happen to them.

“We commend the brave survivors who used their voices to call for change and have become the voice for many other victims.  We renew our commitment to advocating for reforms that assist their healing process and promoting compensation programs that offer survivors a clear, non-adversarial and simple path to compensation.”

The New York State Catholic Conference, which represents the Bishops of the eight dioceses within the state, also issued a statement about the Child Victims Act:

“We pray that the passage of the Child Victims Act brings some measure of healing to all survivors by offering them a path of recourse and reconciliation. The legislation now recognizes that child sexual abuse is an evil not just limited to one institution, but a tragic societal ill that must be addressed in every place where it exists. […]Every Catholic diocese in New York has taken important steps to support survivors of child sexual abuse, including the implementation of reconciliation and compensation programs. […]

“Now, we hope that this same type of survivor-centered approach, that puts the emphasis on healing, is available to all survivors, regardless of when the abuse occurred, or who their abuser was—whether it was a priest, a coach, a teacher, a doctor, or, as is all too common, a family member. We have long called for strengthening the Child Victims Act and will continue to advocate for the elimination of the criminal statute of limitations, compensations programs for those who prefer it to litigation, and mandatory safe environment training for anyone who works with children, as we have implemented in the eight dioceses throughout New York State.

“We thank the brave survivors who have told their stories of abuse in every sector of society. Their witness has moved us all. We renew our commitment to combatting the monstrous crime of childhood sexual abuse and helping all survivors find recourse and reconciliation as they heal.”

The New York State Catholic Conference is signed by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, Bishop Terry R. LaValley of Ogdensburg, Bishop Salvatore R. Matano of Rochester, Bishop John O. Barres of Rockville Centre, and Bishop Robert J. Cunningham of Syracuse. New York State Auxiliary Bishops and retired bishops also endorsed the statement.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has indicated that he will sign the bill.