A Ridgewood child sexual abuse victim finds her voice years later

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons/Wally Gobetz

After years of staying silent, a victim of child sex abuse from Ridgewood has found her voice and is working to help others bring their abusers to justice.

The woman is a longtime resident of Ridgewood and alleged that she was sexually abused as a child by a close family relative. Both her identity and that of her alleged attacker are being withheld due to the pending litigation.

The woman claimed the abuse started when she was just a toddler and continued until she was 9. She said that the relative would regularly engage her in sexual activity.  Each time the abuse happened, the relative would threaten that he would harm her and other family members if she spoke up.

“I grew up in domestic violence. The rapist was an alcoholic and a wife beater,” she said in an interview with the Ridgewood Times. “So, him threatening me every single time that he would abuse me, and saying if I tell anybody he would kill my mother, and me seeing him beat my [family member] constantly to the point that she would have to go to the hospital, obviously I would be afraid of this man.”

When her mother discovered what was going on, she immediately called police. However, the victim said nothing out of fear for her own life and her family members’ lives.

She remained silent on the issue for years, but the current law requires that sexual abuse cases involving minors must be reported within five years after a victim reaches the age of 18. The victim, now 41, is ineligible to make a case against her abuser under the current law.

“I feel like I fell through the cracks of the system,” she said. “Now I found my voice. I’m going to speak, I’m going to scream and I’m going to do everything I have to do because I am reclaiming my life.”

The victim is an active supporter of Assemblywoman Margaret Markey’s Child Victims Act of New York (A2872/S63), which passed the Assembly four times since 2006 but has never made it to the floor of the state Senate for a vote, The bill seeks to completely eliminate the statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse and create a one-year period of time when victims of child abuse who are now adults can bring a civil suit against their abuser and anyone who has protected or covered for the predator.

After hearing about the legislation from a close family relative, she filed a domestic incident report against her abuser with the police department and reached out to Markey. Upon learning of her story, Markey invited the Ridgewood resident to Lobby Day for the Child Victims Act on Wednesday in Albany.

“With research showing that one in five of all children in the U.S. are sexually abused, it is not only important to raise public awareness about this scourge,” Markey said in a statement. “It is also vital that we reform outmoded laws to provide justice for victims and expose pedophiles and those who hide them, also helping to protect future generations of children from abuse.”

Opponents of the act include the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens, which claims that the open-ended statutes could lead to litigation and settlements that could financially destroy the diocese. In response, Markey penned a letter to Pope Francis asking to schedule a meeting with New York survivors of childhood sexual abuse when he comes to the U.S. in September.

As of Wednesday, Markey has yet to receive a response from the Vatican.