Modified: February 11, 2019 10:54am
Erie County Legislature Chairman Peter J. Savage, III was joined by Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn to announce his support for passage of the Child Victims Act. The bill would empower survivors of childhood sexual abuse to confront their abusers as adults, and provide law enforcement with the means to bring child predators to justice. While the Child Victims Act has been approved by the New York State Assembly, passage has stalled in the New York State Senate.
Chairman Savage will present a resolution calling on the New York State Senate to approve the measure at the next session of the Erie County Legislature, this Thursday, March 15 at 2 p.m.
New York State is one of the most restrictive states in the country for victims of childhood sexual abuse who seek justice. Under current New York State law, in most cases child victims must file a criminal or civil lawsuit by the time they turn 23 years old, which is often not enough time for adult survivors of child sexual abuse to take action. Due to the trauma of sexual abuse, many child victims do not come forward until many years after the assault is committed. As a result, alleged perpetrators of abuse are often not held accountable for their crimes.
If passed, the Child Victims Act would allow child victims to take criminal action against their alleged abusers up until age 28 or file civil lawsuits until age 50. The passage of the Child Victims Act would extend the statute of limitation for prosecuting child sexual abuse crimes and filing lawsuits for damages against individuals, public institutions and private institutions.
The bill has been passed by the New York State Assembly several times, most recently in June 2017, but has never been taken up for a vote in the State Senate. Victims of abuse and their allies have called for the Senate to act on the measure this year.
"The State of New York needs to pass the Child Victims Act because the time it takes victims to process the psychological, mental and emotional trauma of abuse often results in these crimes being reported much later in life,” said Chairman Savage. “Those who have been forced to endure these horrors deserve the right to seek justice in a public court of law."
In January 2018, District Attorney Flynn and Senator Tim Kennedy (D-Buffalo), co-sponsor of the Child Victims Act, called on the State Legislature to fast-track this legislation.
“As more victims of alleged abuse that occurred decades ago at private schools and institutions here in Western New York come forward, I will stand behind our local lawmakers and continue to push for the passage of the Child Victims Act,” said DA Flynn. “For too long, these crimes against children have gone unpunished. We need to pass this bill to hold these abusers accountable for their actions.”
The resolution, sponsored by Chairman Savage, states that the Erie County Legislature expresses “its strong support for the victims of child sexual abuse and its support for the intention behind the Child Victims Act and the need for justice for the victims.”
"Abuse against children shatters lives and is reprehensible,” said Savage. “Once these victims summon the courage to come forward, our laws must provide law enforcement with the tools they need to hold offenders who commit these heinous acts accountable. Erie County is speaking with one voice on this issue: the time to pass the Child Victims Act is now, and I urge the Senate to bring this bill to a vote.”
The resolution urges the New York State Senate to “expeditiously approve the Child Victims Act through the relevant and appropriate companion bill such as Senate Bills S.6575, S.6722 or S.809.”
In his 2018-2019 State Budget, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has included provisions of the Child Victims Act and the measure is said to being reviewed as part of the budget process by the State Senate. If passed, certified copies of the Erie County Legislature resolution in support of the Child Victims Act will be transmitted to Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Western New York delegation of the New York State Legislature.