New York’s Child Victims Act passed Monday, more than a decade after survivors of childhood sexual abuse and advocates began pushing for the legislation.
The law will allow survivors to file criminal charges until age 28 and civil charges until age 55. The act also creates a one-year window for survivors to reintroduce claims that exceeded the statute of limitations.
“It has taken us a number of years to get here, but we got here because of you and your tenacity,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo told a room of survivors of child abuse and advocates for the cause Monday morning in Albany. “The delay, don’t take it personally.”
The act, which passed unanimously in the Senate and 130-3 in the Assembly, is among a flurry of legislation that has passed in recent weeks since the legislative session began in Albany with a newly Democratic Senate.
“I’m proud to co-sponsor the Child Victims Act, which gives survivors an opportunity to have their day in court, confront their abusers, and hopefully find closure, because survivors deserve an opportunity for healing, and those who commit crimes against children must be held accountable,” state Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck) said in a statement.
The Republican-held Senate spent years successfully blocking legislation like the Child Victims Act and the Reproductive Health Act, which passed Jan. 22 and codifies Roe v. Wade abortion provisions in state law.
Kaplan’s predecessor, Elaine Phillips, a Republican, took heat from advocates for holding back from supporting the Child Victims Act and later co-sponsoring a separate bill that would not expand the criminal statute of limitations.
“The justice system turned its back on victims in the state of New York … and today that’s going to change,” said Marci Hamilton, CEO of Child USA, at the Monday morning event to which the press was invited. “Republicans were the reason for blocking the legislation. It literally took a blue wave to do the right thing by victims in the state of New York.”
The Catholic Church was one of the most vocal lobbyists against the Child Victims Act. In January 2018 testimony, the New York State Catholic Conference argued that an extended window for survivors to retroactively file claims “would force institutions to defend alleged conduct decades ago about which they have no knowledge.”
In 2009, a conference spokesman said, “We believe this bill is designed to bankrupt the Catholic Church,” according to The New York Times.
Cuomo said that he wasn’t against the Catholic Church on the issue, but instead against those within the church who maintained that political position.
“I think the bishops may have a different position than the pope, and I’m with the pope,” he said Monday.
The Catholic Church was also a vocal opponent of the Reproductive Health Act, with some leaders asking for Cuomo’s excommunication since its passing.
The state is expected to pass gun legislation Tuesday.
One law would ban bump stocks from being made and sold in the state. Another bans firearms on school property, unless carried by police or school security staff.