March 2019 Church & State Magazine - March 2019

New York Legislators Pass Bill Aiding Victims Of Clerical Abuse

  Rob Boston

The New York state legislature has approved a bill designed to allow victims of sexual abuse by religious leaders and others more time to pursue both civil and criminal cases in the courts.

Survivors of such abuse, and their advocates, had pressed for the measure for years. State legislators introduced the Child Victims Act for more than 10 years, but every time it was blocked by Republican Party leaders in the Senate, who acted at the behest of lobbyists for the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Jewish community and the insurance industry.

Democrats took control of the Senate in November and smoothed the bill’s passage. It passed the Assembly 103-3 and got through the Senate with no dissenting votes, reported The New York Times in late January.

The bill, which came largely in reaction to the sex-abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church, extends the statute of limitations in abuse cases. Formerly, prosecutors could bring criminal charges in cases of childhood sexual abuse only before the victim’s 23rd birthday. The new law expands that to age 28, and it allows victims to file civil suits up to age 55. It also creates a one-year “look-back” period during which claims that had expired under the statute of limitations can be revived.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has said he will sign the bill.

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