As a survivor of child sexual abuse turned advocate for the Child Victims Act (“CVA”), I have been encouraged each of the three years since I joined the almost 15-year-old cause. Positive developments are happening earlier in each successive Albany legislative session.
Last year Governor Cuomo announced support (albeit somewhat tepid), followed by a late entry program bill. The Assembly passed the CVA by an overwhelming bipartisan majority. This year the Governor included it in his executive budget as did the Assembly. And possibly as a result of polling giving the CVA a 90% approval by the people of New York, including healthy majorities of both Catholics and Republicans, even the Senate put in some vague language mentioning the topic but committing to nothing. As part of the larger issue of Public Safety, the first hearing touching on the topic of child sexual abuse ever was held in Albany.
Progress? Indeed! And there’s more. The Assembly just passed the CVA for the second consecutive year, again with huge bipartisan margins. But it had to be a stand-alone bill because the CVA was stripped from the final budget during negotiations leaving the Senate free to block a vote on, or even discussion of the CVA for the 15th straight year.
Why? Because they can! For now, at least. With less than two months left in this session, the Child Victims Act is closer to becoming law than ever before. How can we let the Senate sit on their hands with their eyes and ears shut for another year pretending they have New York children’s well being in mind.
With the rebellious IDC rejoining their fellow Democrats and at least four (so far) prominent Republican Senators, including two of its leading opponents (DiFrancisco and Bonacic), announcing they won’t be running for reelection in the fall, the era of Republicans stonewalling on this issue appears to be ending.
Senator John Flanagan has a clear and simple choice to make. Either he will protect children from hidden predators who couldn’t be identified before, and allow survivors of child sexual abuse access to the justice system as adults, or he will side with deep-pocketed lobbyists, the Catholic Church, Boy Scouts of America and insurers who only want to protect themselves from liability for past and present cover-ups and resulting financial repercussions.
It is estimated that as many as 40,000 children are sexually abused in New York State every year. The Child Victims Act won’t make all of that instantly go away, but denying it even a hearing in the Senate abandons children and emboldens child abusers. Senator Flanagan needs to know there will be repercussions for his abuses of power.
To paraphrase John Kerry, “How do you ask a child to be the last victim of sexual abuse?” How many New York children will needlessly be abused this year if we miss the chance to get this done NOW.