The Fighting for Children PAC released a statement that Governor Andrew Cuomo plans to sign the 2019 Child Victims Act into law on Thursday, February 14, 2019. The Child Victims Act was overwhelmingly approved by the NY Legislature at the end of January. Every senator, Republican and Democrat, voted for the bill — even though it never even came to the Senate floor for a vote under the Republican majority. The bill passed the Assembly 130-3.
The Governor’s announcement comes as welcome news to sexual abuse advocates like myself who were beginning to wonder why the Governor had not already signed the bill.
Under the new law, prosecutors could bring criminal charges until a victim turned 28, and victims could sue until age 55. The bill would also create a one-year “look-back window,” during which old claims that had already passed the statute of limitations could be revived.
“It gives meaning and purpose to everything I and my fellow survivors have gone through,” said Brian R. Toale, who has traveled to Albany for years to press legislators on the Child Victims Act.
The Catholic Church Fights Back
New York’s Catholic Conference, led by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, emerged as the most forceful and public in its opposition; since 2012, it spent more than $1.8 million on lobbyists in Albany to represent its interests.
Less than two weeks ago, Cardinal Dolan wrote an opinion piece in The Daily News declaring that he had to protect the church from Mr. Cuomo’s efforts to “single out the church and weaken its ministry.”
The state’s bishops later declared that they would support the Child Victims Act so long as it applied equally to public and private institutions — a provision that the bill’s sponsors readily adopted.
Cardinal Dolan incorrectly attributed the purpose of the Child Victims Act. The legislation is about justice for abuse survivors and accountability for all institutions of public trust who’ve lost that trust because of their own inaction on the issue. In the case of the Catholic Church, their leaders have been covering up and transferring priests who abused children for decades. They’ve never called law enforcement preferring rather to keep their secrets and shuffle bad priests. If the Catholic Church had done its job and acted like a good corporate citizen, there would have been no need for the Child Victims Act in the first place.
Justice Will Finally Be Served
For nearly two decades now, I’ve been advocating for this legislation all the while representing NY survivors of priest abuse. In every instance, our efforts have been thwarted by the New York dioceses who’ve been able to hide behind unfair statutes of limitations that protect their interests rather than those of suffering survivors. Presently, we represent a number of survivors who were abused by New York priests. Some will choose to participate in the compensations funds the dioceses are offering. Others will choose to go to court and pursue justice through the civil process. Each case is unique and I will work hard, as I’ve always done, to help survivors make the best choice possible given their circumstances. Either way, today is a good day for all of us. Justice will finally be served for those who fought the good fight.