In a historic moment and after years of lobbying, an emotionally charged State Assembly today passed the Child Victims Act legislation, 129-7, extending the statute of limitation for criminal and civil child sex abuse cases.
It was the first time that either chamber of the legislature has approved the measure after 10 years of lobbying.
Under current law, the statute of limitations for felony sexual abuse crimes runs five years and begins at age 18. Under the today’s passed legislation, the five-year statute of limitations clock wouldn’t begin until the victim is 23. The statute of limitations for civil cases would be extended to age 50. The new measure would also create a one-year window of time for past victims of sexual abuse whose time period to bring a lawsuit has passed to file a civil lawsuit against their abuser.
Among the most active groups lobbying against the measure are the Catholic Church and Agudath Israel of America, which lobbies on behalf of a number of Yeshivas. Extending the statute of limitations, they argue, could cost these institutions millions of dollars for rabbis and priests that committed sexual abuse on young students years ago.
But Mark Meyer Appel, founder and president of the Bridge Multicultural And Advocacy Project in Flatbush and a longtime advocate for the measure, noted how both the Catholic Church and Yeshivas for years protected child abusers in authority at these institutions, sometimes turning a blind eye to what was happening.
“Victims of child abuse who have suffered for so many years deserve closure and to move on with their lives,” said Appel.
The bill now moves on to the senate where Independent Democratic Conference Chair Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) will carry the legislation that is being billed as a compromise bill.
Appel expressed optimism that the compromise bill will get passed in the senate and that Gov. Cuomo will sign it.
Among the big proponents of the measure is Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Borough Park), who has taken some heat for defending victims of child abuse in the insular Orthodox Jewish community, from which he comes, and where all boys Yeshivas and all girls schools are the norm.
Check out his speech today on the Assembly floor: