By Bill Parry
In her push to eliminate the statute of limitations for child sex abuse crimes, state Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Maspeth) and supporters of the Child Victims Act will lobby the Legislature in Albany for passage of the reform bill. The CVA has been adopted in the Assembly four times in various forms since 2006, but has never made it to the floor of the Senate.
“New York is among the very worst states in America for how it treats victims of childhood sexual abuse,” Markey said. “We rank right at the very bottom among the 50 states along with Alabama and Mississippi. This is the year to change that deplorable situation. Now the CVA has more than 60 co-sponsors in the Assembly and visitors are coming to tell legislators in both houses they want to see the law changed this year.”
The two-day lobby effort will include a roundtable forum Tuesday, May 3, which will be moderated by Benjamin Cardozo Law Professor Marci Hamilton, a national advocate for statute-of-limitations reform. Participants will include Olympic speedskater Bridie Farrell, who has accused speedskater Andy Gabel of molesting her in 1997, when she was just 15. Farrell was unable to pursue criminal prosecution or a civil lawsuit against Gabel because New York’s statute of limitations bars victims from proceeding with cases after their 23rd birthday.
Abuse victims are often very slow to come to grips with what happened to them, some not until middle age or even later in life, according to Markey.
Documentary filmmaker Chris Gavagan, whose film “Coached into Silence” explores sex abuse at all levels of youth sports while detailing his own experience at the hands of a hockey coach, will take part in the roundtable. Advocate Peter Brooks of the Horace Mann Action Coalition; attorney Kevin Mulhearn, who has represented survivors from Poly Prep and Yeshiva University High School; and survivor Ronald Savage, author of a recent personal memoir accusing a hip hop legend of abuse, will also take part.
A second roundtable, hosted by Markey and state Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), sponsor of the CVA in the Senate, will be held the following day. It will focus on chronic violations in the Catholic Church as reflected in the Academy Award-winning film “Spotlight,” which tells the story of the Boston Globe’s investigation into sexual abuse by priests. The program will include Oscar-winning screenwriter Josh Singer and survivor Phillip Saviano, a key figure in unmasking the Boston scandal, and actor Neal Huff, who portrays Saviano in the film.
The second roundtable will be followed by a screening of the film itself for survivors and legislators at a restaurant inside the Capitol complex. Markey’s request to present the film in a legislative hearing room was denied by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx).
“Our current statute of limitations protects the wrong people,” Markey said. “It gives a free pass to predators and those who hide them, but most often denies justice to their victims. It victimizes both victims and all of society. Reforming these statutes will help expose predators who remain hidden and continue to abuse new generations of children.”
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said last week his office has long been supportive of extending the criminal statute of limitations for young victims of sexual abuse.
“But he was not specifically talking about any particular bill and, at this time, he is not prepared to go beyond his original statement,” DA spokesman Kevin Ryan said.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr