Child Victims Act
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the Child Victims Act will be included in the 2019 Executive Budget. This legislation ensures those who abuse children are held accountable criminally and civilly and that survivors of childhood sexual abuse have a path to justice. Governor Cuomo advocated for passage of the Child Victims Act last legislative session but Senate Republicans refused to bring it to the floor for a vote. Governor Cuomo included the Child Victims Act as part of his Justice Agenda for the first 100 days of the new legislative session.
“There has been a degradation of justice for childhood sexual assault survivors who have suffered for decades by the authority figures they trusted most. That ends this year with the enactment of the Child Victims Act to provide survivors with a long-overdue path to justice,” Governor Cuomo said. “For years Senate Republicans unconscionably blocked passage of this critical bill, but in partnership with a new progressive legislative majority we have an opportunity to ensure perpetrators of these heinous acts are held accountable and that survivors of childhood sexual abuse get their day in court.”
This bill would provide necessary relief to child victims of sexual abuse by amending New York’s antiquated laws to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable for their actions, regardless of when the crime occurred. Under current law, child sexual abuse offenses cannot be prosecuted after five years from their occurrence and civil lawsuits for this conduct must be brought within three years from the victim’s 18th birthday.
- Increases the amount of time during which perpetrators of these crimes may be held criminally accountable;
- Allows victims of these crimes to commence a civil lawsuit at any time before they reach 50 years of age;
- Provides victims whose claims have been time-barred a new opportunity for their day in court by opening a one-year window for them to commence their action;
- Eliminates the need to file a notice of claim for sexual offenses committed against a minor;
- Requires judicial training with respect to crimes involving the sexual abuse of minors;
- Authorizes the Office of Court Administration to promulgate rules and regulations for the timely adjudication of revived actions.
This bill is consistent with legislation sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal.
On behalf of the Church, I apologize once again to the survivors who endured unimaginable and horrific abuse at the hands of people that they, and their families, should have been able to trust. I wish I could erase the suffering and the pain they continue to face.
I have worked to ensure the Diocese of Syracuse’s actions demonstrate our resolve to survivors. That is why we have established our victim-survivor compensation program, the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP); repeatedly acknowledged our institution’s past failures; released names of credibly accused clergy; and implemented robust safe environment programs to prevent any future abuse and report any allegation of child sexual abuse to law enforcement authorities. Yet the truth is that more must be done for victim-survivors.
We will soon be releasing a full report on the IRCP, which will include the number of participants and total cost of the program. In that report, testimonials will be shared as to how the program was received positively by many of its participants. It is clear that the strength of the IRCP here in this diocese, and in similar programs in other dioceses, is that it is completely voluntary, administered independently of the Church, and focuses on delivering compensation to survivors swiftly — including recognition that the abuse occurred and the acknowledgement that their voice has been heard.
This program, along with our safe environment training, criminal background checks, partnerships with law enforcement, expertise of our Diocesan Review Board members and continued work with victims of past abuse, is how we continue to work to ensure that child sexual abuse never happens in our Church again.
Tragically, child sexual abuse extends beyond the Catholic Church. Americans have learned of the shocking scale and horrific nature of sexual abuse, from religious institutions to athletic programs, at public schools and private organizations, and, all too commonly, by family members. This week, survivors of childhood sexual abuse bravely spoke out at the state capitol in Albany to pass the Child Victims Act.
I, along with the other Bishops of New York State, agree: It is time for the state legislature to strengthen and pass the Child Victims Act. Countless victim-survivors have been robbed of their childhoods and the memories of horrific abuse continue to haunt them throughout their adult lives.
The Catholic Church has an obligation to acknowledge abuse, promote reconciliation between innocent survivors and the Church, and offer a simple process for financial compensation — if survivors choose to participate.
All survivors, regardless of who their abuser was and where their abuse occurred, should have the same rights because their pain and suffering is just as significant and deserving of recognition. That is why we are advocating for changes to the Child Victims Act to make sure it helps all survivors, not just some survivors.
At their rally this week, survivors noted that while there have been heinous crimes of sexual abuse in the church, 90 percent of abuse occurs in families and other organizations and institutions. We hope that legislators will listen to the voices of survivors and use their feedback to strengthen this legislation.
As Cardinal Dolan recently wrote in an op-ed for the New York Daily News, legislators can address this issue by opening up the bill to include all victims and offering them the same protections and compensation under the law, no matter who their abuser was or where the abuse took place.
Governor Cuomo’s proposal this year, as well as past legislation, would not help many survivors — many of whom have suffered horrific sexual abuse — because even if they come forward before the statute of limitations expires, unless they file a notice of claim, their cases are often dismissed. As the NYS Catholic Conference has stated, this is wrong and we believe legislators should close this grievous loophole — not just prospectively, but retroactively so these victim-survivors can find some measure of justice or compensation.
Lawmakers should further strengthen the bill by eliminating the criminal statute of limitations for all forms of child sexual abuse, rather than limiting it to the most extreme offenses like rape. Time does not heal all wounds and all survivors deserve to be listened to and heard irrespective of when and where the abuse occurred.
Homilies on Sexual Abuse Scandals in the Church
Msgr. Neal Quartier delivers the homily at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse on the reports of clergy sexual abuse in Pennsylvania.
Fr. Brian’s homily at St. Ann’s following the reports of clergy sexual abuse in Pennsylvania.