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Courtesy of Connie Altamirano
Connie Altamirano with state Senator Joseph Addabbo while she advocated for passage of the Child Victims Act in Albany last year.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Jan. 11 that the Child Victims Act will be included in the 2019 Executive Budget. The legislation ensures those who abuse children are held accountable criminally and civilly and that survivors of childhood sexual abuse have a patch to justice.

Cuomo advocated for passage of the CVA last legislative session but Senate Republicans refused to bring it to the floor for a vote.

“There has been a degradation of justice for childhood sexual assault survivors who have suffered for decades by the authority figures they trusted most,” Cuomo said. “That ends this year with the enactment of the Child Victims Act to provide survivors with a long-overdue path to justice. For years, Senate Republicans unconscionably blocked passage of this critical bill, but in partnership with a new progressive legislative majority we have an opportunity to ensure perpetrators of these heinous acts are held accountable and that survivors of childhood sexual abuse get their day in court.”

The CVA would provide necessary relief to child victims of sexual abuse by amending New York’s antiquated laws to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable for their actions, regardless of when the crime occurred. Under current law, child sexual abuse offenses cannot be prosecuted after five years from their occurrence and civil lawsuits for this conduct must be brought within three years from the victim’s 18th birthday.

Connie Altamirano needed a moment to catch her breath when she heard the news Friday afternoon. The 45-year-old Ridgewood activist has been fighting for the legislation for years.

“Today, I feel a little hope but I still have reservations because I’ve been let down so many times before,” the single mother of two, who is disabled with PTSD, said.

The CVA would allow victims of these crimes to commence a civil lawsuit at any time before they reach 50 years of age and it provides victims whose claims have been time-barred a new opportunity for their day in court by opening a one-year window for them to commence their action to revive old cases.

“While we appreciate the governor’s support, we fully expect that the NYS Legislature will pass the Child Victims Act by Jan. 30,” Altamirano said. “This bill needs to include the one-year look-back window and higher statutes of limitations than 28, similar to the states surrounding New York. The bill should serve people with all sources of abuse. The little girl that was abused that’s inside me for the first time now feels hope.”

Altamirano was repeatedly abused and sexually assaulted by her grandmother’s second husband at their home on Himrod Street from the time she was a toddler until age 9 and threatened to hurt her mother if she ever spoke up. She went public with her story in 2014 on a mission to raise awareness about the CVA and hold politicians accountable for not passing it year after year.

“I’m 45 years old now, and I still feel like I’m being told I don’t matter,” Altamirano said.

The Assembly has passed the CVA in the last two years only to see it blocked by the Republican majority in the Senate under pressure from the Catholic Church. The Democrats retook control of the Senate this month after winning big in the November election.

“We look forward to reviewing the legislation,” NYS Catholic Conference spokesman Dennis Poust said. “Our hope is that a final bill will be strengthened by completely eliminating the criminal statute of limitations and closing notice of claim loopholes that protect public school, so that all survivors of childhood sexual abuse are helped, not just some.”

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