Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said the Child Victims Act is a priority on his legislative agenda this year, and with Democrats controlling the State Senate, it’s expected to be signed into law as soon as Monday.
“I think for prior victims it’s very important because the average victim doesn’t come forward until [age] 50 [to] 52, therefore when they did come forward, they were told there’s nothing that can be done,” said Gary Greenberg, founder of Fighting For Children PAC and Protect NY Kids.
Senate bill 2440 includes a one-year “look back” window for survivors whose statute of limitations have run out, to file civil cases against their abusers. Thomas Mortati, a senior litigation attorney at Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, LLP, said lawyers across the area will likely see an influx of new cases.
“For years, these people haven’t had a voice,” Mortati said. “We feel there’s gonna be a lot of people out there contacting us.”
As it’s written now, the new law raises the age at which the statute of limitations on criminal cases begins for child sex abuse victims from 23 to 28, and for civil cases up to the age of 55. Something Greenberg, an abuse survivor and advocate, has been fighting for, for years.
“[The victims will] get their day finally,” Greenberg said. “And the predators, enablers, are gonna get a message that their time is up. No more in this state will predators get away with abusing children.”
Mortati says because it took more than a decade to get this bill to the Governor’s desk, the courts likely won’t get clogged up.
“The court system is set up for all kinds of cases, not just these civil cases involving sex abuse victims. Every kind of case,” Mortati said. “So the court system is ready for this, the legislature is ready for this, and we are ready for this.”
Greenberg said this is a step in the right direction, but he’s not done fighting when it comes to protecting child abuse victims across the state. He said recently sworn in Attorney General Letitia James is already conducting studies on child abuse victims across the state.
“Over the next few years I think you’ll see more interest in taking the statutes totally off,” Greenberg said.
And while it’s a personal decision to come forward, Mortati hopes survivors will get the justice he said they deserve.
“We just encourage people to have strength, talk to their family, talk to their friends,” Mortati said. “Come see us, come see anyone really. We want them to get justice.”
Previous major opposition to the Child Victims Act came from the Catholic Diocese, who says they now support the bill after language that covers all public entities, including schools, was added. NYS Catholic Conference Communications Director Dennis Poust issued this statement to Spectrum News:
“We are pleased the sponsors have amended the Child Victims Act to include all survivors of abuse wherever it occurred. We have therefore removed our previous opposition and pray that survivors find the healing they so desperately deserve. We have long supported strengthening the legislation to include additional measures such as removal of criminal statutes of limitation completely, funding for safe environment training for public and private institutions, and compensation programs for those who prefer it to litigation. We will continue to advocate for those measures in future legislation.”
The CVA vote is expected to pass both the Assembly and the Senate, and then be immediately signed into law by Cuomo on Monday. The law will take effect immediately.