Would Extend Criminal Statutes Of Limitations
The Codes Committee of the State Assembly held a public hearing here last Friday, Mar. 8, on statutes of limitations for childhood sexual abuse offenses.
The witnesses included representatives of victim service organizations, social workers, counselors, psychologists, psychoanalysts, attorneys, a rabbi and a national expert on statutes of limitations. It also included parents and survivors of childhood sex abuse including participants in several recent high-profile sex abuse cases.
The hearing was chaired by Codes Committee Chairman, Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, joined by Assemblywoman Margaret Markey.
Some of the witnesses who testified before the panel held an early morning press conference at 250 Broadway to call attention to their testimony on the Child Victims Act, sponsored by Markey.
The legislation (A.1771) has been adopted by the Assembly three times since 2006, but has not yet advanced in the State Senate. It would completely eliminate the criminal and civil statute of limitations for child sex abuse crimes in New York State (now five years after a victim turns 18) and also completely suspend the civil statute of limitations for one year to provide justice for older victims and unmask abusers and those who have hidden them.
“There is no limit on what is a life-time of suffering and anguish for so many victims of child sexual abuse,” said Markey. “That is why there should be no limit on the ability of victims and society to prosecute abusers. Nor should there be any limit on holding accountable those institutions and organizations that have deliberately protected and hidden perpetrators. Their actions make it possible for pedophiles to continue to prey on new victims.”
Among those witnesses who testified and also appeared at the early morning press conference were: Christopher Anderson, executive director of Male Survivor, who was emcee; Mia Fernandez of the National Crime Victims Center; attorney Phillip Culhane, one of the plaintiffs in a notable abuse case involving Brooklyn’s Poly Prep Day School; Yeshiva Law School Professor Marci Hamilton, author and a national expert on statute of limitation laws; journalist Amos Kamil, author of a New York Times Magazine article on abuse at Horace Mann School, and Robert Boynton an alumnus and a leader of the Horace Mann Action Coalition; and Tina Weber, an attorney whose clients successfully took their charges against an Albany area priest to Massachusetts to get justice when they were shut out of New York courts.
Also testifying at the hearing was: Richard S. Gartner, founding director of Sexual Abuse Service; Rabbi Yosef Blau of Yeshiva University; Ann Barrett-Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org; Mary Haviland, executive director of NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault; Mary J. DeSantis, mother of an abuse survivor; Michael Pollenberg and Erika Arias Moreno of Safe Horizon and Amy Granberg, a Safe Horizon client. Others included: Melanie Blow, chair of the Legislative Advocacy Committee for Prevent Child Abuse NY; and psychologist Norman Costa.
Markey said, “Eight years ago, I first introduced the Child Victims Act of NewYork to extend the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse for an extra five years Beyond current law.” That bill would have extended the time for a victim to come forward with allegations of abuse to the age of 28.
“Even though we were aware that so many victims of abuse are not able to come to grips with what happened to them until they are older, we thought that modest extension would be a good first step toward a more equitable law,” she added. “What we are learning is that the current law is not just woefully inadequate, but that real justice requires more than a modest extension of statutes of limitations. That is why my new legislation now seeks to completely eliminate the criminal and civil statute of limitations for child sex abuse crimes in New York State.”
As with previous versions of the Child Victim’s Act, this 2013 legislation includes a one-year “window” that completely suspends the civil statute of limitations for old crimes. Markey explained, “This is how we make it possible for older victims in earlier cases to receive a measure of justice and how we expose perpetrators whose crimes have been hidden.”
The assemblywoman added, “[The] speakers help us better understand the long-term consequences of childhood sexual abuse and why so many child victims are unable to seek treatment or even acknowledge abuse against them until middle age or even later in life. What we learned [Friday] will guide us making changes in civil and criminal codes that lead to greater justice for victims in New York State and help expose pedophiles and protect future generations of children.”
The public hearing was streamed live on the Assembly website and is available in the Assembly web archive. To access, go to www.assembly. state.ny.us and find the archived video of the hearing by clicking the “Watch Live” button on the upper right corner of the home page.
For updates on the Child Victims Act, see Markey’s website, assembly. state.ny.us/mem/Margaret-MMarkey.