Adult survivors of child sex abuse and molestation were bitterly disappointed on Monday, when State Senate Republicans voted against legislation that would reform the statute of limitations on how much time victims have to file charges against their abuser.
Senate Democrats sought to attach the measure to another bill in the hopes of forcing a vote on the issue, according to a report in the Daily News. The report indicated that they had tried to push it through as a “hostile amendment” to a bill proposed by Senator Richard Funke (R-Rochester) that would require certain establishments to display a poster with information regarding the national human trafficking resource center hotline. Speculation continues to abound as to precisely why the GOP has been intentionally dragging their feet on deciding the future of this legislation.
Senator Brad Hoylman, a Democrat from Manhattan, who had sponsored the Child Victims Act said, “It’s a shame today that the Senate chose not to side with the survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and instead continued to aid and abet predators by refusing to fix New York’s broken statute of limitations for these abominable crimes.”
Ruling that the Hoylman bill was not germane to the crux of the legislation was Senator Joseph Griffo, (R-Utica) who presided over the session.
Hoylman had argued the amendment was germane because human trafficking typically involves child sex victims, as was reported by the Daily News. “Child sex abuse is a widespread problem,” he said. “We can do something about it today.”
Partisan politics was at play when just 29 senators, none of whom happened to be Republicans, voted by a show of hands to overturn Griffo’s ruling. The effort collapsed as they did not garner the majority of votes needed to have the ruling overturned.
Democrats in the New York State Senate are at a disadvantage in terms of proposing new legislation because of the GOP majority in the chamber and their ability to control the agenda in terms of what bills will arrive at the floor for a vote.
Kathryn Robb, an activist who says she was sexually abused by her brother told the Daily News that, “I was only looking forward to some sort of vote just so we can call out those senators that stood with predators and not the children of New York. It exposes them for where they stand.”
An upstate New York investor, Gary Greenberg, will be fervently pursuing justice for survivors of child sex abuse through the creation of a political action committee that will target state senators who did not cast their votes for the Child Victims Act.
Speaking to the Daily News, Greenberg, who had been himself been a victim of child sexual abuse in 1966, said that his preference would have been for Senate Republicans to grant a straight up or down vote rather than the Democrats going for the hostile amendment option.
“Why would you delay voting on a law that would protect children, out predators, and help people heal?” Greenberg asked. “Why would you delay that a day?”
For their part, the GOP said they are not opposed to the passage of the Child Victims Act, but see the Democratic initiative to have it passed as a grandstanding effort.
“The Senate Democrats have engaged in an unfortunate political stunt at a time when we are attempting to have an honest and serious discussion about this issue. While we are currently reviewing a number of bills on this topic, it’s clear that the members of the Senate Republican Conference will continue to work extraordinarily hard to protect the victims of sexual assault,” a Senate GOP spokesman said.
The Democrats, though, said if the Republicans were serious about addressing the issue they would have let it come to the floor.
The Assembly Democratic majority still hasn’t decided whether it will address the issue before the end of the session.
Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) said he has begun surveying his members on where they stand.
Last week, Governor Cuomo jumped into the fray and met personally with five survivors and two victims’ advocates.
Cuomo had left the bedside of his girlfriend Sandra Lee after she had undergone breast reconstruction surgery to attend the meeting. Lee underwent a double mastectomy last year.
A number of state politicos and elected officials have been less than willing to give their full throated endorsement of the proposed Child Victims Act before the legislative session ends on June 16th, according to a NY Daily News report.
After the meeting, MaleSurvivor executive director Chris Anderson, one of the abuse survivors, said, “To be in that room and be heard by the governor was very powerful. We felt like there was a lot of compassion in that room. I walked out really feeling that we all had been heard.”
“To be in that room and be heard by the governor was very powerful,” MaleSurvivor executive director Chris Anderson, one of the abuse survivors said. “We felt like there was a lot of compassion in that room. I walked out really feeling that we all had been heard.” The delegation that met with the governor were touched that he decided to give them his undivided attention, despite the fact that his girlfriend had just had surgery performed.
“We were moved by the fact that he saw us with his significant other in the hospital,” said Marci Hamilton, law professor and advocate for survivors of sexual abuse.
Sources close to the lobbying efforts have speculated that the state’s top leaders are more than reluctant to champion the Child Victims Act legislation because of the power of the Catholic church. Some have opined that the church would have the most to lose financially if lawsuits by victims were filed against them for not doing anything to prevent the molestation from taking place on their premises.
For the last eight years, Mark Meyer Appel of the Voice of Justice has devoted the lion’s share of his time to conducting well organized lobbying efforts in Albany to call for a major reform in the statute of limitations.
“It is our moral responsibility as Orthodox Jews, as upright citizens of this country, to make it our business to eliminate these predators, “ intoned Mr. Appel. “Because child sexual abuse gets swept under the proverbial rug in Orthodox circles , it very often comes out many years later. I worked with victims who were abused over 20 years ago, and who never pursued their cases out of fear and always remained mum about it. One day, without warning, a trigger will go off in their brain and all the nightmarish memories will surface and they will be reliving the abuse. Now, however, as adults they do want to redress their grievances in a court of law and that right should be afforded to them,” he said with palpable emotion reverberating in this voice.