Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Maspeth) will be holding a hearing on March 8 regarding the remodeled Child Victims Act.
The CVA, introduced eight years ago, originally planned to extend the current statue of limitations for child sexual abuse for an extra five years. Current law grants a victim five years after their 18th birthday to come forward with allegations of sexual abuse.
“Over the past year, so many cases demonstrated that the current law is inadequate and that these victims require more than a five-year extension,” Markey said. “That is why this new bill will seek to eliminate the criminal and civil statute of limitations.”
The removal of the statute of limitations will alleviate the pressure for victims to come forward before they turn 28, something that co-sponsor Assemblyman Michael Miller (D-Southwest Queens) says is essential.
“You have to give these people an opportunity to have closure when this happens,” he said. “These are young children that are experiencing, well, I don’t even have the words to explain what they’re experiencing. With the current law, you don’t really give them the opportunity to face the person that abused them. This gives them that opportunity.”
The New York State Child Advocacy Resource and Consultation Center states that one in five women and one in ten men report that they were sexually abused as children. The actual number of cases is unknown as many victims never come forward.
Markey said she expects a substantial turnout for the hearing at the State Office Building in at 250 Broadway in Manhattan. The Assembly’s Codes Committee and Markey will hear from law enforcement, victims and mental health experts in favor of the CVA.
“We are particularly interested in hearing about research that demonstrates why so many victims do not come to grips with abuse they have suffered until later in life,” she said.
One speaker, a victim, will be flying out from Hong Kong to share his story.
“I think that shows the dedication people have to this issue,” Markey added, “The fact that this man is flying out on his own dime shows you the impact this has. It’s something they never forget. They want justice.”
The challenge Markey and the other Assembly members face now is getting the bill passed through the Senate. In the eight years the CVA has existed, it has been passed by the Assembly four times but has never been brought to the Senate floor.
Markey and Miller, though optimistic, say they are unsure of what the Senate will do with the bill.
“I don’t know,” Miller said. “The Senate is a hard body to determine what’s going to happen. Of course, I do hope it’s brought to the Senate and goes through.”
Laura Ahearn, the executive director of Parents for Megan’s Law, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention and treatment of child sexual abuse and rape, said she is in full support of the bill but isn’t sure it will be ratified.
“If it gets put through, it’s going to open large institutions up to being held accountable,” she says.
Institutions such as the Catholic Church which has had many incidents involving child molestation could have a lot to lose.
Ahearn mentioned she was uncertain if this would be a factor in the state government’s decision.
“I don’t know how willing legislators will be to do that to these institutions but we do have high hopes that the state will correct this wrong,” Ahearn said.
“There is an overwhelming amount of support from people regarding this bill,” Markey says. “From victims to organizations and even from people who haven’t been victimized but just care about the cause.”
A rally and educational forum will be held in Albany at State Lobby Days on April 16 and on April 17. Markey also has a petition online for the public to sign. Supporters can add their names by visiting childvictimsact.org.