THANK YOU – The Child Victims Act becomes law!

From Call to Action – Metro NY

This Thursday, Feb. 14, Governor Cuomo will sign the NY Child Victims Act into law, and once he does, New York State will be sending a message to predators of children that NY will not be so friendly to them in the future.   It took 12 years of advocacy for this bill to become a law.   It’s not perfect, but it is a step towards justice that was long withheld from victims of child abuse.   It will hold accountable predators and institutions that cover up for them or enable them. Call To Action Metro NY advocated for this bill since 2012.   At times we were the largest contingent of people coming to Lobby Day in the spring.   We wrote position papers and countered the arguments that the Conference of Catholic Bishops promoted among legislators to stall this bill.   It wasn’t always comfortable for us to be in such tension with the Catholic hierarchy, but as lay Catholics, we felt an obligation to speak out against the sin of the sexual abuse of children and the institutional cover-up of it.   We also came to view the issue of sexual abuse of children as a moral issue for the whole society. We write this to thank all who contributed to our efforts.   We are particularly grateful to the few courageous priests and nuns who advocated for the bill and spoke about what they had witnessed or experienced or simply felt was the just and right thing to do.   In particular we would like to thank canon lawyer Fr. Tom Doyle for helping to educate us on the issue; Bishop Gumbleton, of Detroit, who early on stood with victims and several years ago shared having been a victim himself; and more locally, Fr. Ron Lemmert, who spoke up about the pastor’s abuse of young boys in his Peekskill parish, his communication to the hierarchy going unheeded, and the subsequent suicide of many of the victims.    One important thing we have learned in this whole process is that child sexual abuse takes a heavy toll. We are all indebted to SNAP and founder Barbara Blaine, who died last year, for supporting survivors and finding pathways to have this issue break open into the public view in spite of the fact that it would be painful for the church.   It was felt from the beginning that the problem would not be solved by keeping it quiet.   Thanks to Anne Barrett Doyle, who created the data base Bishop Accountability, a valuable tool for documenting the extent of the abuse in our church. We applaud the victims/survivors who had the courage to come forward and speak their truth.   Many were not abused by anyone in the church, yet they, like us, had to face the fact that the Catholic Church, through the NY State Catholic Conference, spent thousands of dollars to lobby against this bill. For many victims, getting involved in advocacy was a healing process that allowed them to go from being a victim to being a survivor.   Special mention goes to Bridie Farrell, Asher Lovy, Shaun Dougherty, Mary Ellen O’Loughlin, Brian Toale, Harold Siering, Tim Walsh, Melanie Blow, Steve Jimenez, Catherine Robb, Richard Toellner, Gary Greenburg and Connie Altamirano.   There were many others; these are the survivors we got to know most. Their voices mattered. The latter two worked hard to pass this bill even though neither of them will get any benefit from it. We are thankful to Law Professor Marci Hamilton who, as a national expert on child sexual abuse, gave countless press interviews and testimony at hearings that helped shine the spotlight on this issue and the bill. Thanks as well to Safe Horizon and other agencies that deal with victims for the expert testimony they could provide.   And to Jessica Schafroth for marshalling the troops for Lobby Days in the last several years. And of course thanks goes to those who carried this bill in the NY legislature, starting with Senator Tom Duane and Assembly-member Marge Markey and then Senator Hoylman and Assembly-member Linda Rosenthal who together carried the bill over the finish line with the support of many co-sponsors.   Thank you for your steadfastness, for believing survivors, and for wanting to protect New York’s kids. On Thursday, we will all thank Governor Cuomo for his support of this bill, for talking personally with survivors and coming to understand the importance of improving protective measures against child sex abuse. Including the bill in his budget was a major step forward, and we are grateful for the attention he gave to this issue. Last, we want to thank those of you who came forward to help advocate for this bill, for going up to Albany, for going to district visits with legislators, for participating in rallies or making phone calls.   CTA Upstate New York joined us in this effort, and at times, together with Voice of the Faithful, we were the “Catholic Coalition of Conscience”.   We exemplified the laity stepping out of the pews to advocate for a more just church and a more just society. We were but one piece of the advocacy puzzle, but an important Catholic voice for justice.

Thank you all for your support,

Art McGrath and Nancy Lorence, Call To Action Metro NY

A Summary of what will this bill do

It extends the statutes of limitation for felony crimes of sexual abuse of a child to age 28.

It extends the statutes of limitation for civil cases to age 55.

It creates a one-year period during which the statutes of limitation for civil cases will be lifted and survivors will be able to bring their cases currently barred by the short statutes of limitation to civil court.   This one-year period will start six months from the day the bill is signed by Governor Cuomo on Thursday.

The bill also holds accountable institutions and organizations, both public and private, responsible for enabling or covering up crimes of sexual abuse of children. This applies to the one-year period as well. This law will affect the institutions and organizations that acted irresponsibly in the past.   And yes, that may be painful. Yet, we considered it important to have the one-year  “window” to identify perpetrators who may still be in contact with children and to provide some sense of justice to survivors who had been shut out of court by New York’s unrealistic statutes of limitation for this type of crime.   We also consider it a form of reparation for a harm inflicted over too many years on innocent children.