Yesterday, an intrepid group of warriors supporting the New York State Child Victims Act (“CVA”), descended on the State Capital in Albany. Some were survivors of childhood sexual abuse, some were people of faith whose conscience told them something needed to change, and others who simply saw an injustice that they could no longer let stand. In one iteration or another, this “family” of advocates has been fighting for the CVA for more than a dozen years.
The enemies of the CVA have not changed their positions or arguments in all this time. They haven’t needed to because they never had to defend them. Classic David and Goliath. They just kept alluding to how this was a complicated issue and was being considered in conference. Blah, blah, blah. Yada, yada, yada. Frustrated past the point of anger, this band of sisters and brothers went to Albany to literally make themselves be seen and heard. They wanted to let Goliath know that David was taking out his slingshot.
Like a cross between stealth comandos and Keystone Cops, they played cat and mouse with Capital Security, posting flyers of Majority Leader John Flanagan as “WANTED: FOR PROTECTING SEXUAL PREDATORS” anywhere and everywhere they could. Some of them have probably yet to be discovered. Senator Flanagan certainly saw them. Rumor is he was not happy. Check!
The citizens (voters!) of New York State have already started to see and hear this group of ardent activists. Recent polls show 90% of New Yorkers support the CVA, including healthy majorities of Republicans. There has been more press coverage and public endorsements of the CVA than ever before in New York. Thanks to movements like #MeToo and #TimesUP more everyday people are paying attention and learning the facts.
The Stop Abuse Campaign petition in support of the CVA, which gathered well over 130,000 signatures was then presented at a press conference. The bill’s Democratic sponsors, Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal and Senator Brad Hoylman along with Senator Timothy Kennedy spoke about how “Enough is enough, and time’s up!” Survivors Kathryn Robb and Melanie Blow warned Senate Republicans that they were not going away and that every method available to inform and educate their constituents would be utilized in the coming months. The passionately delivered message was “Don’t underestimate us. We are a force to be reckoned with. Either allow a vote on the CVA or face being voted out of Albany”.
The petition was walked over and hand delivered to the Majority Leader’s office by the Democratic lawmakers but had to be left on a little table in the hallway outside his office because Senator Flanagan would not risk giving this issue one gulp of air more than he had to. That is how fragile and tenuous his position on the CVA has become. Silence is the only thing he can afford to give on this topic any more.
Having accomplished being seen (check!), next came being heard. Regrouping outside the Senate Chamber they started chanting slogans in favor of the CVA as loud and disruptively as they could. That got a lot of attention before they moved to outside the Majority Leader’s office.
Here, inspired by a surprise visit from a pretend Cardinal Dolan and entourage, the chanting turned to Cardinal Dolan’s purchase and ownership of Senator Flanagan as the reason he keeps the CVA buried and safely away from a vote, year after year. This was the tensest part of the day, since there was a security person for every one of the chanters, gathered on either side of them. They looked ready to move in and contain them at any moment if given the signal they were crossing a line. That didn’t happen.
After a full day of making their presence felt, the last step was visiting the offices of the Republican caucus members who enable Leader Flanagan to keep the CVA in limbo, and respectfully alert them that the game had changed. “If you don’t allow the CVA to reach the floor of the Senate for a vote, we will make sure you won’t return to it either.”
Gauntlet thrown – check! Message delivered – check! Outcome inevitable – absolutely!