Ridgewood advocate declares ‘bittersweet’ victory after passage of Child Victims Act

Courtesy of Connie Altamirano

Nothing was going to stop Connie Altamirano from being in Albany to see the Child Victims Act finally pass the state Legislature after years of advocating for the legislation.

The 45-year-old Ridgewood activist, a single mother of two who suffers with PTSD, collected bottles in her neighborhood to pay the $85 Amtrak fare to the state capital.

“It was an emotional and hard day,” Altamirano said. “It was the happiest moment of my life and at the same time it was the saddest moment of my life. It was bittersweet, that’s for sure.”

She said she would never forget being on the floor of the upper chamber as the bill passed the Senate 63-0, and Altamirano received a warm embrace from Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, a fellow victim of child sex abuse.

“I thought at that moment that I stand for all victims and I want justice for all, I declare victory,” she said.

The passage of the Child Victims Act Monday ended a decade-long battle between the survivors of child sex abuse and those that fought to block it including the state Catholic Conference which had lobbied against the legislation for years before dropping its opposition last week.

The legislation will raise the criminal statute of limitations for child sex abuse crimes by five years and raise the civil statute of limitations for causes of action brought by someone seeking redress for physical, psychological or other injury caused by child sexual abuse to age 55. Additionally, the legislation will create a one-year window, starting six months from the effective date of the bill, for past victims of child sexual abuse to initiate lawsuits against their abusers and the public and private institutions that let the abuse happen. The bill will eliminate onerous “notice of claim” requirements that create hurdles for victims to sue public institutions that negligently allowed the abuse to occur, during the revival window and going forward.

“Protecting the most vulnerable in our society is the moral test of leadership,” said state Senator Michael Gianaris, the Senate Deputy Leader. “By passing the Child Victims Act, the New York Senate is standing up for people who have been denied a chance for justice.”

“Childhood sexual abuse is an indescribably traumatizing experience that can take a lifetime to come to terms with,” Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato said. “In many cases, it can take many years for a survivor to be ready to confront their abuser. While we cannot erased what happened, we can give power to victims and help them move forward with their lives without letting the perpetrators of this unthinkable crimes off the hook.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo has vowed to sign the Child Victims Act into law.

“I’m declaring victory for today but my job is not done,” Altamirano said. “I owe it to all survivors to get rid of the statute of limitations and to fight for a Child Victims Fund because the majority of the victims, 80 to 90 percent, are victims that need our assistance.”

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