Child Victims Act supporters want measure in Senate budget

Mar 15, 2018

Survivors of childhood sexual abuse delivered an emotional appeal to state senators Wednesday after they learned that the Senate did not put the Child Victims Act into their budget plan. The measure would offer more opportunities for survivors to gain justice in the court system.

Child actor star Corey Feldman was one of dozens of victims who came to the Capitol to express their concern over the Senate’s actions. The 47-year-old Feldman, who was in the 1980s and 1990s films Stand by Me, Friday the 13th sequels and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, said he’s been seeking justice for decades.

“Thirty years ago … I first told the police about what happened to me as a child,” Feldman said. The case has never been heard in court.

The Child Victims Act would raise the age for victims to bring lawsuits from 23 to 50. It also would provide a one-year window of opportunity for people who survived abuse long in the past to have their day in court.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo put the measure into his state budget proposal, and the Assembly included the legislation in its one-house spending plan.

But advocates — including Senate bill sponsor Brad Hoylman, a Democrat — said they were dismayed when they looked at the Senate’s spending plan and found, in the space where the language for the Child Victims Act would have been, the words “intentionally omitted” instead.

“The Republican Senate thinks they can intentionally omit the concerns of survivors, families and parents across the state of New York,” Hoylman said. “We’re not going to let them get away with it.”

A spokesman for Republicans who lead the state Senate said that doesn’t mean that senators will not consider a different version of a measure to give childhood victims of sexual abuse longer to file both criminal and civil lawsuits. But the Senate so far has not backed the one-year window of opportunity for past victims to bring cases in court.

Hoylman, on the Senate floor, asked Senate Finance Committee Chair Cathy Young if the Senate Republicans are ruling out backing the one-year lookback.

Young was noncommittal and said the issue will be discussed in private among legislative leaders and Cuomo at the “leaders’ table.”

“It is mentioned in our proposal because there will be discussions at the leaders’ table about that issue,” Young said.

Senate Republican Majority Leader John Flanagan says he’s not ruling out the one year look back, but needs to talk to organizations that would be affected by the potential lawsuits first.

“We need to be talking to hospitals, nursing homes, school districts, local governments,” Flanagan said. “The ramifications are of such a magnitude that I think we need to be judicious and take our time and get it down properly.”

Advocates — including Richard Tollner, who said he was abused by a priest when he was a teenager in the 1970s — said that one-year window is key and non-negotiable because in addition to providing justice for older victims, it also helps identify hidden predators.

“All of the molesters and perpetrators of the crimes against us are still out there,” Tollner said.

Survivor Beth McCabe said she hopes the awareness created by the #MeToo movement and sexual harassment of women will help spur senators on the fence to realize that childhood sexual abuse victims need justice, too.

“Time’s up,” McCabe said.

The final budget is due in just over two weeks, and the advocates said they will be back.