As someone who experienced childhood sexual abuse at age 16 and didn’t report it publicly until age 62, I am grateful to the New York Times for shining a light on the issue. It is not hard to see it is much more difficult for children to come forward and name their abusers when the #MeToo movement reveals how even adults don’t come forward because of shame or fear of reprisal.
The extremely short window given to victims of child sexual abuse to find justice in New York State is both unjust and punitive.
But more unconscionable than denying survivors their day in court is how this leaves pedophiles and sexual predators, (overwhelmingly repeat offenders that won’t stop until caught) with continued access to our vulnerable children. Most New Yorkers, I believe, are not aware how these restrictions protect sexual predators and the institutions that shield them, in order to protect their own reputations and finances. If more voters knew, Senator Flanagan and the Senate Republicans would not have been able to block the Child Victims Act (CVA) for so many years.
As the New York Times Editorial Board points out, it is now well documented that states which already passed legislation like the CVA do not experience the dire consequences its opponents are predicting. If Senator Flanagan would let the CVA come to the floor for discussion, debate, expert testimony, an airing of public opinion and ultimately a vote, these facts could come out. This must be why no version of the CVA has yet to see the light of day in the Senate, after a dozen years of advocates working to get it passed.
For most of my life, I blamed myself for the abuse. And like me, most victims of childhood sexual abuse have struggled with the shame and guilt of believing they were responsible for what happened to them, and that they should have been able to prevent or stop it. By the time I was 40, the consequences of the behaviors and addictions I had turned to had derailed my life and driven me into 12 Step Recovery. Because I got this help I eventually was able to reveal my abuse to a therapist. This was 17 years after it was no longer possible to seek justice or expose my perpetrator. But I didn’t attempt to confront my abuser, expose the institution that protected him or go public in any way until I was in my 62, 45 years after I escaped my perpetrator. Unfortunately, my experience is far from unique.
A recent survey showed that 76% of New Yorkers, across demographics that include Republicans and Catholics, are in favor of passing the Child Victims Act. In his 2018 State of the State address, Governor Cuomo echoed those feelings when he said:
Society has rightly expressed its outrage. But outrage is not enough. Enlightened government must seize the moment to attack these social diseases that are long institutionalized and culturalized and end them once and for all. . . .We must acknowledge it, we must stamp it out, and we must stamp it out here and now.” “ We cannot, we must not let those things happen in the great State of New York.
Those of us who have been advocating for the Child Victims Act, are extremely grateful to Governor Cuomo for including a robust CVA in his budget this year. Hopefully, this will put the obstructionists in the Senate on notice that passage of this long overdue legislation is unquestionably the right thing to do for survivors, for our children’s safety, and for New York State.