Harlem resident Andrew Willis has created StopAbuseCampaign.com to solicit help from the public in “ending the sickening law that protects child abusers” in New York State.
Last week Willis and the Stop Abuse Campaign (a network of citizens concerned about the safety and well being of children) delivered a folder containing the names of over 200 individuals who have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse — who are protected by New York State Law statue of limitations — to the office of Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson, a leader in the fight against child sex abuse. The folder also contained the testimony of abuse from 30 survivors and witnesses.
Willis also wrote an open letter to the members of the New York State Senate Codes Committee and discusses the grim statistics of child sexual abuse. His goal was to point out the pressing need for the passage of the Child’s Victim’s Act of New York. (Two bills currently up for vote in New York State [1 and 2]).
According to the New York Coalition to Protect Children, “The Child Victims Act attacks childhood sexual abuse on several fronts. It will expose predators, protect vulnerable children, and help victims. It will make two significant changes to the statutes of limitation for child sexual abuse in New York“:
- An Extension: The Act extends to age 28 the limitation for a victim to bring a claim. Currently a victim must bring a claim by the age of 23, and rarely are victims strong enough to come forth so soon into adulthood.
- A Window: The Act creates a one-year, one time suspension of the current statute of limitations. During this period, adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse may sue the abuser as well as anyone who protected or covered up for the predator—even if the statute of limitations has already expired.
The passage of these bills is important because:
- The FBI estimates that 1 in 5 American children are sexually abused by age 18 and only about 10 percent of the child sex abuse crimes are reported to law enforcement. As a result, predators to roam freely to abuse other children. Some abusers may have more than 100 victims in their life time.
- The problem is compounded by state laws, including those in New York, that limit the period for prosecution or bringing suit for damages. Statutes of Limitation deny victims their day in court while they shield predators and their enablers. Some victims suffer for a lifetime, while predators eventually go unpunished.
According to Assemblywoman Margaret Markey and Marci Hamilton (Chair in Public Law at Yeshiva University’s Cardoza School of Law), New York law, as currently structured, favors child predators over their victims. “It does so by arbitrarily setting the statute of limitations so that survivors are locked out of the courthouse. Survivors typically need decades to come forward but, in New York, the statute of limitations is unduly complicated and short. Since the survivors cannot get their claims into the legal system, their predators are not named to the public and, therefore, can continue to operate under the cloak of anonymity. That is precisely what they do, into old age.”
While the passage of the Bills would seem like a no-brainer, there is opposition.
A New York Times Editorial states that, “An earlier version of the bill passed the Assembly in 2006, 2007 and 2008, but the Senate, then under Republican control, refused to consider it. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver expresses strong support for the latest bill, amended to cover abuses by both religious and non- religious entities. But he is insistent that the Senate act first before requiring his members to cast another politically sensitive vote on the issue.”
The Times also states, “The Catholic Church is working against the interests of child abuse victims in state legislatures around the country. In recent weeks, lobbying by the church has blocked measures in Wisconsin, Arizona and Connecticut intended to widen the legal window for victims to file lawsuits against hidden predators. They urged the New York State Legislature to rise above intense lobbying by the New York State Catholic Conference and Orthodox Jewish officials to pass the Child Victims Act.
How You Can Help
- Get info on contacting your NY State Senator and find out how you can help StopAbuseCampaign.com by clicking here.
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