I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. My story, nor any of the other hundreds that have been in the media, this or past sessions, have made any dent in the intransigence of Senator John Flanagan and his Republican leadership. They claim to have compassion for the victims and that they are definitely discussing “amongst themselves” ways to find justice for victims of child sexual abuse. But their loyalty to the financial interests of the Roman Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America and other institutions clearly outweigh that compassion.
They argue that they need to protect the innocent from unforeseen consequences the Child Victims Act might have, especially from the component commonly referred to as a “look back window”, which enables adult child sexual abuse survivors a window of opportunity, for a period of one year, tohold their abusers accountable. They want to prevent doing damage to reputations by fraudulent claims. They fear those dependent on charitable works will suffer because financial resources will be used to pay out large awards. And they predict the court system will be crippled due to an avalanche of new filings. These all might sound like legitimate concerns on their face but none are borne out by the experiences of states where reforms with “look back windows”, including California, Delaware, Minnesota, Hawaii, Illinois and Florida, have actually been enacted.
The lawmakers blocking the Child Victims Act in New York are fully aware that not one of the above catastrophic predictions has come to pass where reforms included a look back window. Virtually no false claims or allegations have been reported by the courts. No charitable works have been impacted or services discontinued due to money being siphoned away by judgments awarded to survivors. No avalanches of claims have clogged or had any adverse impact on the functioning of the courts in these states. In fact, many states have had so much success identifying predators that were still at large and abusing children that they have renewed or extended these windows after the initial periods expired.
If the politicians and the institutions that seemingly own them already know these things (and they do because we have been telling them for years now), what then is the real reason for standing in the way of this common-sense legislation? In a word, fear. Fear that the private records of the institutions that need to protect their reputations and cash flow will be exposed in a court proceeding. When they can deal with individual victims, as they prefer, in isolation from others, they can assure their secrets are safe. If a case gets to court, however, how they handled allegations of sexual abuse, sweeping them under the rug and moving predators elsewhere, thus endangering, even more, children, often for decades, becomes public knowledge.
The hold these institutions have over the Senate Republicans and possibly Governor Cuomo, (though the jury is still out on him as he has three days left to prove otherwise) should frighten the voters of NY State. For 11 years this battle has been fraught. But David is getting stronger and Goliath is losing credibility rapidly. There is only one ultimate ending possible. We will know very soon whether it will be this week or a session yet to come when it happens. The Senate in NY State needs to decide when they are going to give up because we never will.