Advocates spar on Phillips-sponsored child sex victim bill

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State. Sen. Elaine Phillips is one of three co-prime sponsors of a bill introduced on Thursday intended to help victims of childhood sexual abuse seek justice. (Photo courtesy of the office of state Sen. Elaine Phillips)

State. Sen. Elaine Phillips is one of three co-prime sponsors of a bill introduced on Thursday intended to help victims of childhood sexual abuse seek justice, following years of the GOP not bringing the Child Victims Act to a vote.

The Child Victims Act passed for the sixth time in the Assembly last week.

Gary Greenberg, founder of ProtectNYKids, said the GOP-proposed legislation is a step in the right direction.

Other advocates, such as Marci Hamilton, founding member of New Yorkers Against Hidden Predators founding, said it’s a terrible bill.

“It is outrageous that the Republicans are in the business of subsidizing institutions, which is what it does,” Hamilton said.

The cornerstone of the proposed legislation is creating a state compensation fund that will be available to all time-barred victims of child sexual abuse.

The fund, which will be overseen by the New York State comptroller and a chief administrator, will be comprised of $300 million in asset forfeiture funds from the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

Victims will go through a hearing and review process, facilitated by hearing officer experienced in sexual abuse cases, and the claims administrator will make a decision on compensation.

Information about the abuser’s name will be made public in cases receiving awards.

The main difference between the GOP’s proposed bill and the Assembly’s passed Child Victims Act, is the state Senate’s legislation lacks the one-year look back window for past cases to be tried.

The look-back window was also a main reason many religious groups, including the New York State Catholic Conference, were against the Child Victims Act.

With the fund, the government will be footing the cost of the pay-outs as opposed to institutions.

“This is a truly terrible idea, but what’s shocking about it is that it’s using available state funds in order to make sure that … all the institutions responsible don’t have to pay for what they did,” Hamilton said.

Under the proposed legislation, institutions “don’t pay a dollar,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said the fund also uses money that could go toward improving public schools or child protective services.

Greenberg said the fund will help the “96 percent of victims who are abused by non-institutional cases.”

“They weren’t abused by a priest, or rabbi, or a teacher,” Greenberg said. “They were abused by a stranger, they were abused by a family member, in most cases. The large majority of these cases lawyers will not take … I’ve been doing this for a long time and I haven’t had one lawyer approach mea bout suing my predator.”

In a statement Phillips said the time has come in New York to compensate all victims.

“I am proud to sponsor this historic legislation, which not only includes providing timely restitution for victims, but also eliminates the statute of limitations for criminal child sex abuse offenses,” Phillips said. “With the input of advocates and experts, the New York Child Victims Reconciliation and Compensation Fund was crafted to ensure victims receive the compensation they are due and that additional measures are made to protect New York’s children.”

In addition to the fund the legislation would eliminate the statue of limitations for the criminal prosecution of sex offenses against children.

The legislation though, doesn’t help all victims, Hamilton said.

She added that it’s not a $300 million fund for incest victims, “it’s a fund for all victims, and that’s why it is so immoral.”

The “family justification,” Hamilton said, doesn’t justify letting the institutions off the hook.

Hamilton also said that the proposed fund is using money that could be going toward improving child protective services or public schools.

Greenberg said the bill is still a work in progress, but said it is a sincere attempt on behalf of the Republicans to help victims.

Hamilton said there’s a chance of the Child Victims Act getting passed after the November elections.

Currently, the GOP has a 32-31 majority, with Brooklyn Democrat state Sen. Simcha Felder caucusing with the Republicans.

Already a handful of GOP incumbents have decided not to run.

In District 7, Phillips has already drawn two Democratic challengers: North Hempstead Town Councilmember Anna Kaplan and Brad Schwartz.

Both Democrats have said they would vote in favor of the Child Victims Act if elected.

1 COMMENT

  1. Wouldn’t it be more equitable that where a representative of an institution (ie: church, corporation) inflicts sexual abuse on a child that the institution is held accountable like in most tort law today and where it is an individual, the state can then step in to help compensate the victim.

    However, I am not sure that compensation has ever been a equitable solution to such crimes considering how does one pay out a monetary amount to a victim that would repair the damage done? It can’t.

    The lasting affects of such an abuse of a child especially is more psychological than physical, though it has obviously been found that physical abuse has been as much a part of an individual act of abuse as anything else. As a result, wouldn’t it be more beneficial to help such child victims grow in a healthy manner by allowing for funds that would take care of counseling, education, and support (as needed) where the victim meets the qualifications of the institution he or she is applying to.

    I have met women in my life who have been raped and abused at a young age. Trust me; all the monies in the world cannot repair such damage without the proper care and compassion to bring about a healthy outlook on the part of such victims…

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