Thank you, Chairpersons Senator Cathy Young and Assembly Member Helene Weinstein for this opportunity to be heard.
My name is Brian Toale, I am 64 years old and live in New York City. I grew up in Nassau County, on Long Island. At the start of my senior year in high school, I was skillfully groomed, manipulated with a dare and ultimately maneuvered into being sexually abused by a school appointed moderator of an extra-curricular club I belonged to. His name was Frank Lind. The abuse lasted until I graduated, 9 months later. My abuser routinely took Polaroid photographs and used them to methodically escalate sexual acts. He controlled me by threatening to expose them to my friends, classmates and worst of all my family who would not only be ashamed of me but shamed themselves.
I was barely 16 and ill-equipped to go up against an experienced predator. That pivotal year was lost to me. My only plan was to survive until graduation with no one finding out. I believed that if I never told anyone I could live the rest of my life like it never happened. And that is precisely what I set out to do.
The next 20 years were a demeaning and self-destructive downward spiral for me. I failed at school, employment, military service, and relationships. I engaged in negative behaviors, including addiction, all of which reinforced self-hatred and self-doubt.
I hit bottom when I got divorced with a 5-year-old daughter at home. The memories I thought I was holding at bay had everything to do with the problems I was facing at the time, but it wasn’t until I started my recovery in 12 Step programs and therapy that I was able to see there might be a connection.
That was 17 years after the statute of limitations had already run out for the crimes committed against me as a child.
It has taken me an additional 25 years of sometimes very intense and painful work to actually confront my abuser and the institution that put him in my path. At age 62, no longer carrying that secret, and the shame it reinforced, empowered me to join the fight to pass the Child Victims Act. It will become law. I am confident that its time has come.
My story is not uncommon. Most victims of child sexual abuse are not ready or able to address what happened to them until their 40s, 50s or even their 60s like me. New York State bans them from seeking justice long before they are ready to do so. Perpetrators count on this, and because our laws so blatantly fail children, they reward perpetrators, enabling them to prey on children with impunity. You must hold them accountable.
My abuser was experienced. He knew what he wanted as he groomed me. I was not his first victim nor was I his last victim. If schools or other organizations had to worry about their complicity they would do a better job protecting kids. New York must make it more costly for institutions to do the wrong thing so they will do the right thing.
I will never get justice because the man who abused me is dead. New York’s laws failed me and countless others. You have an opportunity to right that wrong.
An estimated 43,000 children will be sexually abused in New York State this coming year. If these laws aren’t changed it will continue to be true, or get worse. You owe it to them, their families and society to fix this. The Child Victims Act is a common sense policy solution with proven success in other states.
In this climate of accountability sweeping our country, it is not surprising to learn from recent polling that 76% of New Yorkers support the passage of the Child Victims Act. That includes 76% of Republicans and 76% of Catholics! Senator Flanagan, it is time for you to stop stonewalling and come to the table.
I close by thanking the many who have contributed to getting the CVA this far, beginning with Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal, Speaker Carl Heastie, Senator Brad Hoylman, and Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. And our governor, who by including the CVA in his budget is sending a clear message that passage of a bill is a priority this year.
I count myself among the lucky ones who got help in time. I am a survivor, but the scourge of childhood sexual abuse leaves too many other victims in its wake. The little 5-year-old girl who experienced her parents breaking up 25 years ago, just gave us our first grandson. New York State will be a much safer place for him to grow up in when the Child Victims Act is passed.