A bill to extend the statute of limitations on child molestation to give victims more time to seek justice is expected to easily pass the New York legislature Monday.
The scheduled vote on the Child Victims Act in the Democrat-led Senate and Assembly comes after years of unsuccessful efforts to pass the legislation. While it’s been endorsed by the Assembly repeatedly, the act was blocked by Senate Republicans. Democrats won control of the chamber last fall, however, and say passing the act is one of their top priorities for 2019.
“The gates to our courts and to justice will soon finally swing wide open to the survivors of child sexual abuse who have been silenced for so long,” said Manhattan Democrat Linda Rosenthal, the Assembly sponsor of the bill. “Those days are now behind us.”
Current law gives victims until age 23 to file civil cases or seek criminal charges. Under the act, victims could file civil suits until age 55 and seek criminal charges until age 28.
The one-year litigation window for past claims now barred by the statute of limitations has been the sticking point, with large private institutions such as the Catholic Church warning that it could cause catastrophic financial harm to any organization that cares for children. The church had also opposed a loophole in the law that they said would have unfairly shielded public schools.
The church supports the extension of the statute of limitations going forward, however, and recently dropped its opposition to the overall bill after the sponsors agreed to make it apply equally to public and private institutions.
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo supports the bill and has said he will sign it into law.
Flanked by eight child molestation victims, Cuomo said a state Capitol news conference held Monday morning that the legislation will offer the opportunity for justice to victims who have suffered what he called a “horrendous violation in life.”
Stephen Jimenez, a 65-year-old journalist who said he was molested by a faculty member at his Catholic elementary in Brooklyn in the 1960s, called the measure’s impending passage “exhilarating.”
“This is a big, big step forward in terms of New York setting an example,” Jimenez said.
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