NYS Seal For Immediate Release:
May 16, 2006


Silver, Child Sexual Abuse Victims Call For Senate Action On Extending The Statutes Of Limitations In Child Sexual Assault Cases

Landmark Proposal Would Allow Victims A 'Critical Opportunity To Secure Justice' Through Criminal, Civil Actions

Speaker Sheldon Silver, Assembly Codes Committee Chair Joseph Lentol and bill sponsor Assemblywoman Margaret Markey were joined today by child sexual assault victims and representatives from child sexual abuse victim support groups at a Capitol news conference in support of legislation that would grant victims of child sexual assault a greater period of time to seek justice by extending the statutes of limitations for criminal and civil actions for these offenses.

Also attending the news conference were other Assembly sponsors of the legislation, as well as representatives from the Voice of the Faithful (VOTF), a national organization formed in response to the clergy sexual abuse crisis, the Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), a Chicago-based nationwide organization for clergy molestation victims and the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NYSCASA).

The Assembly proposal (A.8705), which is part of the Assembly's tough and comprehensive "Child Safety and Sexual Predator Punishment and Confinement Strategy," would provide more time for survivors to file criminal or civil lawsuits against their attackers.

"The sexual assault of a child reaches a level of abomination no words can possibly express. As we move forward to ensure that perpetrators of these vile crimes receive the toughest possible punishment, we must ensure that victims of sexual assault achieve the justice to which they are entitled. This bill's provision to retroactively allow suits based on prior wrongs is important because the state and federal Constitutions do not allow this in criminal cases but permits it with respect to civil causes of action," said Silver (D-Manhattan).

"Sexual assault against children is horrendous. This bill will provide an outlet for people to seek redress of these grievances," said Lentol (D-Brooklyn). "The passage of time does not dull the memories; these children will carry them for the rest of their lives."

"When it comes to sexual assault, no person is above the law. In too many cases, the existing timeframe limits have done nothing but protect criminals - leaving them free to harm more children - instead of being brought to justice," said Markey (D-Maspeth). "When a sex predator is shielded from prosecution for evil deeds done years ago, they remain a threat."

Pointing to the inability for many child victims to come forward before the current statute of limitations expires, the lawmakers said the bill was a critical means of giving victims a voice, particularly for those who are assaulted by people with authority over them.

Under current law, the criminal statute of limitations in child sexual abuse cases in which a victim does not report the crime to law enforcement or the statewide central register of child abuse is not applied until the victim reaches age 18. The bill would add five years to the statute, so that the five-year statute of limitations in these cases would not begin to run until the victim turned age 23. Enactment of the legislation would mean that a child victim would have until the age of 28 to seek prosecution. The bill passed the Assembly in January and has stalled in the Senate.

A similar extension would be provided for the civil statute of limitations. The statute of limitations in these civil cases would not begin to run until the victim turned the age of 23. Enactment of the legislation would mean that a child victim would have at least until the age of 28 to seek civil redress.

Silver said the "cornerstone" of the Markey bill was the provision that would give persons for whom the right to bring a civil action has been foreclosed under the current civil statute of limitations a one-year "window" from the date of enactment of the bill, regardless of their age, in which to seek damages for any past instance of child sexual abuse.

"As adults, these survivors of sexual abuse need to know they can come forward and seek criminal and civil remedies for the harms they have experienced and continue to experience throughout their lives. We applaud Assemblywoman Markey and Speaker Silver for putting forward this legislation and look forward to a commitment to serious negotiation with the Senate and the Executive, not only on this issue, but strategic planning about all state responses to sexual violence," said Anne Liske, NYSCASA executive director.

"Voices of the Faithful advocates for progressive legislation to protect children from sexual abuse and provide adult survivors with a window of opportunity to file civil and criminal suits to seek justice for their abuse," said Joseph Kern, regional coordinator, Albany Voice of the Faithful. "Many states have passed legislation and it is time for New York State to bring justice for victims and insure protection for all children."

"I am here to support the one year civil window which will enable wounded victims to protect kids by exposing predators and those who hire them and shield them. It is the single most proven and effective step any Legislature could take to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded," said Mark Lyman, SNAP Capital Region Leader.

"The pain and suffering caused by child sexual assault is an issue which has left many victims struggling to recover," said Markey. "We must help make their lives whole again. Victims must have the pain and suffering inflicted upon them acknowledged and the perpetrators must be held accountable for their acts. Only when these basic rights are accepted and addressed can a victim find closure and the opportunity to rebuild their lives. We owe them the ability to have their voice heard."

The lawmakers noted the passage of the legislation continues the Assembly Majority's efforts to enact a comprehensive, effective plan to protect New Yorkers from sexual predators. Yesterday the Assembly overwhelmingly passed legislation eliminating both the criminal and civil statute of limitations for the most serious sex crimes (A.11283-A).

The Assembly legislative package passed in January seeks tougher penalties against sexual predators, strengthens Megan's Law to better protect children, enhances community notification to improve the communication of important information about potential danger and ensures mandatory education for school children to help them protect themselves against situations that could put them at risk.