BY ASSEMBLYWOMAN MARGARET MARKEY
We were all excited about the momentous visit of Pope Francis, but disappointed that overall, so little attention has been paid to the scourge of childhood sexual abuse — one of the most urgent topics of concern among so many New York Catholics.
The fight to address this issue in many states is directed at reform of archaic statute of limitations (SOLs) that restrict the time for victims to come forward and expose abusers and the organizations that hid or protected them. New York currently ranks among the very worst states in all of America for how it deals with victims — right at the bottom of all 50 states along with Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Indiana.
If a New York victim of child sex abuse doesn’t come forward within five years after their 18th birthday, they forever lose the opportunity to bring charges. Since research shows that many if not most abuse survivors do not come to grips with what happened to them until well into adulthood, if ever, that means that most victims never get justice and pedophiles remain free to abuse new generations of children.
My Child Victims Act of New York (A.2872A/S.63A) would completely eliminate the civil statute of limitations for child sex abuse in the future and get justice for older victims. Even though the measure has passed the Assembly four times, it has never come to the floor of the state Senate and the most vocal opponent of this reform is the New York Catholic Conference of Bishops.
I was encouraged by the strong message of the Holy Father to his Pontifical Commission earlier this year that there was no place in the ministry for abusers and his call for reconciliation and healing for past victims. He has backed up those views by creating a Vatican tribunal to hold bishops accountable for cover-ups and failure to prevent abuse.
There is no limit to what is a lifetime of suffering and anguish for so many victims of childhood sexual abuse. That is why there should be no limit on the ability of victims and society to hold abusers accountable. Nor should there be any limit on accountability for institutions and organizations that deliberately protected and hid perpetrators.
Earlier this year, I reached out to His Holiness to ask for his help in convincing the bishops of New York to follow his lead. I hope he can help us transform the eminent opponents within his flock, New York’s bishops, into advocates for children and survivors by urging them to support statute of limitations reform in New York State in the future.
Markey represents the 30th Assembly District, which includes all or parts of Astoria, Long Island City, Maspeth, Middle Village, Sunnyside and Woodside.