The Child Victims Act will not be voted on this legislative session, despite a monumental push from survivors and lawmakers, and even a program bill from Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan confirmed to reporters yesterday that the bill was done for the year. “It’s under discussion, but the senate is not going to be taking that bill up,” he said.
Advocates of the CVA had high hopes that this would be the year the bill — a version of which has existed since 2006 — would finally get passed, particularly after one Republican, State Senator James Tedisco, signaled his support for it. Earlier this month, the legislation passed the state assembly for the first time since 2008, and last week Cuomo introduced his own version that matched the assembly’s.
The act, though, has powerful detractors. The Catholic Church has worked diligently to keep the bill from passing, fearing a deluge of costly lawsuits. The Boy Scouts of America shelled out $12,500 per month since February to the lobbying firm of a former state senator in an effort to have it killed.
The bill would have extended the time frame in which child victims of sexual abuse could either file a suit or bring charges against their tormentors. New York’s laws are currently among the most restrictive in the country, allowing survivors only until the age of twenty-three — five years past their eighteenth birthdays — to take some form of action.
Survivors are understandably devastated that the bill has been scuttled yet again.
“I’m more than disappointed,” said Ana Wagner, who was abused for three years by her father’s best friend beginning when she was nine years old. “The justice system here just doesn’t make any sense.”
Wagner told the Voice that she’d traveled to Albany twice to appeal to Flanagan — not as an advocate for a piece of legislation, but as a parent worried about her children.
“He saw me in the hallway and looked the other way,” she said.
State Senator Brad Hoylman, the bill’s main sponsor, called Flanagan’s announcement “a crushing disappointment.”
“It’s mostly sad that it sends a message to New Yorkers that the government is not working for them,” he said. “Big money has trumped victims’ rights.” He added that while there’s some chance the issue may be resurrected in a special session, the reality is that it’s probably done for the year.
Despite attracting widespread media attention, the CVA was never discussed by members of the Republican-controlled senate in a public hearing. Then again, Hoylman pointed out that it did just pass its 54th bill on sex offenders, so “you can’t say the senate isn’t aware of the issue,” he said.
“I think it’s going to require more work on the part of everyone who cares about the issue to push it ahead next year,” he added.
Wagner said she’ll spend much of the day fielding inquiries from the media. “I wish we wouldn’t have to be talking to the press about this issue. I wish I could take my kids to the beach.” She worries for the children whose abusers will continue to walk free.
When asked whether she’d continue to lobby for the CVA’s passage, Wagner replied, “I don’t feel like I have a choice. But the only way is to get right back up.”