Titled, “Faces of the 1 in 5,” the exhibit is on view at the Concourse Entrance to the State Legislative Office Building this week. It is centered on 18 photos of New York state childhood sexual abuse victims and the opening program today featured remarks by four of the individuals pictured in the display, now adults, who described how they coped with the life-altering affects of their abuse.
Assemblywoman Margaret Markey said: “The ‘faces’ you see in this exhibit are those of real children who suffered abuse at the hands of pedophiles. These are the human faces that inspire us to make this bill law.”
In addition to remarks by four speakers whose childhood photos are part of the exhibit, other speakers at the exhibit opening included: Yeshiva University Cardozo Law School Professor Marci Hamilton, Barbara Dorris of SNAP-Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests; and Orthodox Rabbi Dr. Asher Lipner, an officer of the Jewish Board of Advocates for Children.
The Child Victims’ Act of New York (A.2596/S.2568) is sponsored by Assemblywoman Markey (D-30^th District, Maspeth) and State Senator Thomas Duane (D-29th District, Manhattan). The bill adds five years to existing law, extending the statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse until the victim reaches the age of 28. The legislation also creates a one-year “window” of time during which adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse can bring a civil suit against the person who abused them as well as anyone who protected or covered for the predator, even if their previous statute of limitation has already expired.
“This exhibit, like the subject of the Child Victims’ Act, is about children. And it is also about numbers,” said Assemblywoman Markey. “The ‘1 in 5’ is the number of children in America that suffer childhood sexual abuse.” Other statistics she offered reveal some of the shocking personal and societal impacts of childhood sexual abuse, including: “victims of abuse are 2.5 times as likely to abuse alcohol and 3.8 times as likely to face drug addiction; one third of those abused when they were children will abuse their own children; abused children are 11 times more likely to commit juvenile crime and 3 times as likely to commit crime later in life; and child abuse costs society $104 billion annually in direct and indirect costs, including cost of health care, loss of time on the job, divorce, depression and suicide.”
She added, “It is clear that America pays a huge personal and societal cost for childhood sexual abuse. It is important that we take the opportunity this year for New York to be a leader in providing justice for previous victims of abuse and protection for future generations of children at risk by exposing hidden pedophiles.”
Most childhood sexual abuse is committed by family or family acquaintances or other people they trust and respect, explained Assemblywoman Markey, but far too many of these crimes go unreported or are not reported for many years. Then, when victims finally and courageously speak up, many of them are denied justice because arbitrary statues of limitations prohibit them from seeking the legal recourse they are due. “The Child Victims’ Act of New York will provide victims of abuse greater opportunity to have their day in court and will ensure that sexual predators are identified, stopped and punished,” she said.
The bill has been approved by the Assembly Codes Committee and is expected to go to the Assembly floor for final debate and a vote early next week.
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