Readers Write: Child Victims Act: The human toll

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I commend the Island Now for their recent editorial calling state Sen. Elaine Phillips to account for her indefensible position on the Child Victims Act.

Brad Schwartz

Indeed, during her limited tenure in office, Phillips has demonstrated a disturbing pattern of putting special interests above the safety and protection of children.

Another recent example was her bowing to the NRA over the issue of gun violence in schools, following the Parkland shootings.

Like March for Our Lives, the Child Victims Act has become a rallying effort to address another national epidemic threatening kids.

As declared Democratic candidate running against Sen. Phillips, 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.

Recently, my campaign was endorsed by Fighting For Children: the tireless action committee dedicated to passing the Child Victims Act. Like all who are fighting this cause, our shared stance is based on what is right and what is just — not what is political.

While much has been written about the insider politics of the Child Victims Act, which extends the statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual abuse to bring their assailants to justice, I would like to take the opportunity to address the human aspect of what this bill would mean for current and future victims of childhood sexual assault.

These are real people battling injustice. In fact, probability states that you already know somebody who has suffered sexual abuse.

In the United States, one in four girls and one in six boys, will be sexually abused before the age of 18.

These young victims internalize or repress the crime due to feelings of shame, guilt and fear.

There is no cure for sexual abuse, no pill or prescription that can erase the lifelong effects of being sexually abused as a child.

Upon talking to adults who were victimized as children, one thing is clear; flashbacks do not go away and the triggers are unavoidable and everywhere.

For victims, accessing justice against those who committed these heinous crimes against them, is key to the healing process.

Having their abuse validated in court as a crime which happened through no fault of their own, externalizes the experience by transferring guilt where it belongs.

Accessing justice begins with disclosure.

And, disclosure begins as a process where the victim goes from suppressing the abuse to opening up about what was done to them — this takes time. There are myriad of reasons why victims do not divulge the crime until much later into adult life.

Children are victimized before sexual maturity and so may not even understand they are being assaulted until they become more sexually aware, which can take many years or even decade.

In 90 percent of sexual abuse cases, the child knows the assailant with one out of three being assaulted by a family member.

Children often keep quiet because they are afraid to accuse someone who is in a position of power over them.

In these cases, children are also in deep turmoil by the confusing and conflicting circumstance of having to tell on a family member who is supposed to love them.

Indeed, shame and guilt are often weaponized by perpetrators as a tactic to keep children silent. Even if children do tell their parents, cultural taboos sometimes push the family to cover-up the incident fearing greater repercussions.

Understandably, most children feel trapped and terrified.

Upon reaching adulthood, victims remain locked in the emotional and psychological aftermath, suppressing the painful memories, or fearing social stigmas of being the victim of molestation. Once victims do open up, it occurs in stages.

First, there is the painful process of acceptance — wherein it often takes a while before all the details come back.

Then they must overcome the fear and fallout, the social stigmas and judgments that come with disclosing the abuse.

And, then there is the process of recovery which for many, means reporting the crime and seeking justice in court against their abusers — another intimidatingly long process.

These explain why, the estimated average age of male victims coming forward to report childhood sexual assault is 42.

Yet, currently the statute of limitations on reporting child sex crimes in New York is only 23 years old.

Given what we understand about the complex array and long-lasting trauma victims of sexual abuse must overcome, we must give survivors more time to open up to disclose the crime and seek justice.

That is the purpose of the Child Victims Act; to allow victims to come forward and, fix a system which enables sexual predators to continue their abuse.

If we are to be a just and humane society, our goal should be to protect children and childhood survivors…not predators.

The Child Victims Act needs to be passed. Not doing so, is inexcusable.

Brad Schwartz

Port Washington

Democratic Candidate for NY State Senate’s 7th District

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