Justice for child sexual abuse survivors has been a long time coming in New York State, but after years of political wrangling, the Child Victims Act will finally tip the scales in favor of innocent victims. For the Jewish community in particular, where many have been afraid to press charges to prevent their reputations from being tarnished while they were dating, the soon to be signed legislation removes the safety net that predators have long relied upon for protection from criminal prosecution.
Passed unanimously by the Senate and by a near unanimous vote in the Assembly on Monday, the bill is expected to be signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo shortly, fulfilling a promise made in his 2019 Justice Agenda to pass the law within the first 100 days of the current legislative session.
Under Child Victims Act, the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution will be extended to age 28 for felony sexual offenses and 25 for misdemeanor sexual offenses, five years longer than under the current law. We know from experience that it can take years for victims of child sexual abuse to come forward and abusers count on that delay to avoid prosecution. Giving victims till their mid to late twenties to press charges against their abusers, taking most past the age of shidduchim and into their early married years when they are more comfortable facing their past, is extremely significant.
Let this be a warning to any potential abusers: the days of being able to use the shidduch factor and youthful indecision as vehicles to escape punishment are over.
While the Child Victims Act will, unfortunately, not apply to those victims who were abused prior to the new law going into effect, it is a giant step in the right direction, paving a path to justice, both for those who will now be able to have their day in court and for those who might, G-d forbid, be molested in the future. Based on Amudim’s own client history, we have seen that until now only 37 percent of our clients were able to press charges against their abusers. The Child Victims Act will allow a full 60 percent of our clients to hold those who violated them accountable for their actions, giving 52 percent more clients closure, a vital step on the road to recovery.
We express our gratitude to the many legislators who supported this bill and agree with Governor Cuomo’s assessment as he declared, “The only sin, I believe, greater than abusing a child would be protecting those who abuse a child.”
Zvi Gluck is the director of Amudim, an organization dedicated to helping abuse victims and those suffering with addiction within the Jewish community and has been heavily involved in crisis intervention and management for the past 19 years. For more information go to www.amudim.org.