Assembly passes Child Victims Act in 130-10 vote

For the second year in a row, Assembly members from both parties overwhelmingly approved a bill that would give victims of child sexual abuse more time to seek criminal charges or bring lawsuits, and that Senate Republicans have blocked because of a provision the Catholic Church opposes.

The Child Victims Act sailed through the Assembly in a 130-10 vote on Tuesday, with all five Democrats and Republicans representing Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties in support. James Skoufis, a Woodbury Democrat who was one of many co-sponsors of the bill, said in a statement afterward, “Childhood victims are often too afraid or traumatized to come forward until they’re adults, and by then the statute of limitations has run out. We must change the law so that more survivors can seek justice and move forward with their lives.”

New York currently bars people who were sexually abused as children from seeking charges against their abusers or suing after they turn 23, an cutoff that victims and their advocates say is far too restrictive. The proposal that the Assembly passed last year and this week would give victims until age 25 for misdemeanors and 28 for felonies in criminal cases, and allow them to bring lawsuits until age 50. Supporters have sought those reforms in Albany for a dozen years.

The main point of contention is a provision that would give past abuse victims a year to bring lawsuits, since the extended statutes of limitation wouldn’t apply to them. Advocates say that one-year “lookback” is needed to allow those victims to seek justice and expose predators who may still have access to children. But the Catholic Church and Senate Republicans contend the provision would expose the church and other institutions to lawsuits over decades-old allegations with little surviving evidence.

Advocates have waged a fierce campaign to enact the Child Victims Act this legislative session and have targeted certain Republican senators, holding a rally outside John Bonacic’s Middletown office in January. The Senate has until the session ends on June 20 to decide whether to take up the legislation.

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