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NY's long-anticipated Child Victims Act expected to pass Monday

WBFO file photo

Today lawmakers in both houses of the New York State Legislature are expected to vote on the long-awaited Child Victims Act, which would open the window to legal action by long-ago victims of child sexual abuse, who have been unable to seek civil litigation due to statutes of limitation.

For more than a dozen years, a proposed Child Victims Act was passed by the State Assembly but stalled in the Senate, where Republican caucus leadership prevented the bill from going up for a vote. With that house changing leadership this year, the holdup ends.

The Child Victims Act, under its current revision, would extend the statute of limitations up to age 28 for victims seeking criminal action against their abusers, and up to the age of 55 to pursue civil action. Victims would have a one-time, one-year window of opportunity to file their litigation, beginning six months after the Act is signed into law. Assuming Governor Cuomo signs the bill upon passage Monday, the window would open July 28.

Attorney Steve Boyd, who represents at least 20 childhood sexual abuse victims, says it takes many victims years before they may muster the strength and courage to speak of their childhood trauma.

"The Child Victims Act takes into account the reality that these people have lived, the pain and the darkness that they in many cases have just suppressed," Boyd said. "It gives these people their day in court. It's a phenomenal thing for those people who need the healing that only justice can bring."

Institutions including the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts of America had, for a long time, expressed their opposition to legislation. Among their concerns was the belief private institutions would be unfairly singled out. The Legislature, though, has adopted language from Governor Andrew Cuomo's version of the bill which treats public and private institutions the same.

On Friday, Bishop Richard Malone of the Diocese of Buffalo issued the following written statement on the official diocesan Twitter account:

Senator Chris Jacobs, who told reporters he would support the version of legislation he read late last week, also stated that the problem of sexual abuse goes far beyond the institutions which have been mentioned in the news. Scouting and sports organizations have also had their scandals. Jacobs also remains concerned for a large number of sexual abuse victims who, as he sees it, may still not necessarily get justice, even with passage of the Child Victims Act.

"Ninety percent of abuse victims are from family members or neighbors or babysitters or others," he said. "There is no ability to compensate them the way the Child Victims Act is written. That's another thing we need to look at, to make sure we're trying to help all victims."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.