As someone who experienced childhood sexual abuse at age 16 and didn’t report it publicly until age 62, I am grateful to Newsday for shining a light on the importance of the Child Victims Act (“CVA”) and specifically, for calling attention to the significance of the “lookback window.”
The CVA allows a survivor of child sexual abuse, for whom the statute of limitations has already expired, the ability to sue their abuser. Denying legal recourse to survivors removes a powerful tool that could be used to identify, if not prosecute, those who prey on children sexually. When not exposed in a civil suit or through criminal charges, perpetrators of child sexual abuse do not lose their access to vulnerable children who they will continue to target. We know they do not stop unless and until they are caught.
Institutions like the Roman Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America, and some Orthodox Jewish groups are putting their own reputations before the safety of the children they are supposed to be protecting. They spend millions of dollars lobbying Albany to kill the CVA because letting victims have their day in court gives the justice system access, through “discovery,” to the records these institutions keep hidden and thereby learn what they knew and when they knew it. It then becomes public knowledge that these organizations have routinely failed to disclose the existence of credible complaints and the relocation of known offenders — many even multiple times — with no alert of the risk to children at their new assignments.
One of the dire consequences claimed by the CVA’s opponents is being overwhelmed by a surge of lawsuits, many of them fraudulent. It is now well documented that this has not been the experience of states successfully passing laws like the CVA, even those with longer lookback windows than what is being proposed in New York. Another disingenuous argument is that the charitable works they do will be subject to a crippling limitation, if not complete elimination, precipitated by a need to fund substantial monetary awards. Again, this has not occurred in the real world. Rather than using their resources to keep children safe, these institutions, along with insurance companies, demonstrates that their only concern is protecting their own financial security.
If Senator Flanagan were not beholden to these special interests, he would let the CVA come to the floor of the Senate. Then, expert testimony, debate, an airing of public opinion and ultimately a vote, would hold his Republican-controlled Senate accountable to the voters who sent them to Albany. 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 tirelessly to get it passed.
Governor Cuomo did not mention the Child Victims Act directly in his State of the State address last week but he made an excellent case for it, nevertheless, by saying:
“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.”