Victims of child sexual abuse once again find the GOP-controlled state Senate at the helm to decide the fate of their cases after the state Assembly passed the Child Victims Act on Tuesday again with overwhelming bi-partisan support.
The bill, which would amend the statue of limitations, passed the Assembly for the sixth time – but it’s future lies in the hand of a chamber that has let the bill die before its ever hit the floor for a vote.
Majority Leader John Flanagan is the bill’s main roadblock, but the November elections may change that if the power shifts to the Democrats.
The GOP currently has a one person 32-31 majority, due to Brooklyn Democrat Simcha Felder’s decision to caucus with the Republicans.
Both Democratic challengers in District 7, North Hempstead Town Councilwoman Anna Kaplan and Brad Schwartz, have come out in support of the bill.
Republican state Sen. Elaine Phillips, who currently serves District 7, has circled around the Child Victims Act and has not come out in full support of it.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Phillips said it is time for the legislature to support victims childhood sexual assault.
“Recognizing the importance and urgency of this significant issue, my colleagues and I have been meeting with advocates and experts on a regular basis and are working to find a real solution that provides meaningful reform and gives victims greater access to true justice,” Phillips said.
When the bill was included in both the Assembly and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budgets this year, Phillips said it would need more time to be discussed.
The state Senate ultimately blocked the bill from being included in the adopted budget.
The legislation would amend the statute of limitations for criminal cases to begin when a victim turns 23; victims would be able to file civil cases until their 50th birthday.
Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso, who co-sponsored the bill, said the bill would help victims move forward with their lives.
“Nothing is worse than hurting a child and it can take many years for the survivors of childhood sexual abuse to be ready to file charges against their abuser,” D’Urso said.
The bill also has a provision for a one-year look back window for past cases, which is opposed by many religious groups.
The New York State Catholic Conference cites the look back provision as their reason for opposing the bill.
“This extraordinary provision would force institutions to defend alleged conduct decades ago about which they have no knowledge, and in which they had no role, potentially involving employees long retired, dead or infirm, based on information long lost, if it ever existed,” the state’s Catholic church said in a memo on Monday.
Child Victims Act advocates have pushed Phillips with numerous rallies in late 2017 into this year to no avail.
Kaplan noted the Child Victims Act as one bill she wants to get passed if elected during a speech at a campaign rally last week.
When news broke of the Assembly passing the bill, Kaplan said on Facebook, “send me to the New York Senate and I will fight every single day to pass this law to punish those who prey on children and who have escaped justice for far too long.”
In a letter to the editor in April, Schwartz said “the Child Victims Act has become a rallying effort to address another national epidemic threatening kids … and I am intent to stand up and speak out for young victims who must carry with them, lifetimes of pain and trauma from crimes of violence and sexual abuse.”
In the past 12 years a version of the bill has passed the Assembly six times.
The state Senate has not once brought it to a vote.
Gary Greenberg, a child sexual abuse survivor and founder of Fighting for Children, said this year he’s confident the state Senate will pass their version of the act, too.
“The New York State Assembly’s overwhelming vote passing the Child Victims Act is a step forward,” Greenberg said. “I expect the Senate to soon take action on the Child Victims after meeting with key senators along with my GOP Senate consultant Justin McCarthy. We are in negotiations with the leader’s staff and fellow Senators.”
Fighting for Children PAC has endorsed Brad Schwartz in the election.