A bill that would give victims of child sexual assault a window to bring old cases against their abusers is stalled in Albany. A group advocating for the Child Victims Act is raising awareness about the measure in hopes of countering opponents of the bill … and perhaps making New York safer for kids.
Bridie Farrell was a 15-year-old competitive speed skater in Saratoga Springs, when then 33-year-old Olympian Andy Gabel came to town to train. Farrell says the iconic athlete abused here multiple times…and her complaints to Olympic Team officials fell on deaf ears.
He has since admitted an inappropriate relationship and been stripped of membership in the national skating body. But the statute of limitations on such crimes prevents Farrell from bring a criminal or civil suit against Gabel.
Now Farrell is trying to get the Child Victims Act passed to open up cases in which statutes of limitations prevent any action.
“It would be a one year period of time where survivors of child sexual abuse, like myself whose statute had expired, could come forward and file a civil claim against the individual that was the abuser, as well as the institutions that protected them.”
So it would work like this: If passed, a 6 month education period would start July 1st , then January 1st, 2019 the one-year window for people to come forward would be open. The measure only allows for a civil case; the state constitution prohibits retroactively changing criminal law. Farrell says it’s not just for victims who might have kept quiet for decades.
“So say they were sexually abused 30 years ago. It causes someone that was abused 25, 20, 15, it goes down to someone who was abused recently where their statute is still active. And then it can move to criminal prosecution. So it’s not just the individual survivors speaking up. It’s a societal effort to make New York safer.”
Farrell has started the group New York Loves Kids to lobby for the law, which passed in the State Assembly 130-to-7 last year, and then again 130-10 in May of this year….but is being blocked for any vote in the State Senate.
“One in four girls and one in six boys are victims of child sexual abuse. Someone we know is impacted, to say nothing of the effects on our communities in lost wages, mental healthcare costs, and the ability of victims to become healthy, productive, contributing adults in our society.
The good news is we can break this silent cycle just by recognizing and talking about it.” Jeremy Tchaban, NY Loves Kids
Currently, the law provides for someone to bring a case against an attacker years after their abuse as a child. But someone can only come forward with a child abuse case until their 23rd birthday.
“The average age that a survivor of child sexual abuse speaks is in their 40s. So not only is it an insulting law to survivors, more importantly, I think, it’s an ineffective law.”
She believes powerful forces in the Catholic Church, Boy Scouts of America and ultra-orthodox Jewish groups … and more recently big insurance comapnies … are blocking a vote on the law, fearing civil judgements. The bill has languished for 12 years…with support in the State Assembly but not ever coming up for a vote in the State Senate, blocked now by leader John Flanagan. But Farrell sees moods changing, in the public and perhaps among Albany lawmakers, thanks in part to the #Me Too movement.
“Women finally being able to talk about an uncomfortable situation, an uncomfortable caress, an uncomfortable touch. These are all traumatic experiences, so I think that the #Me Too Movement was really powerful in allowing so many shades of gray to come out.”
The bill is now in committee in the State Senate (sponsored by Brad Hoylman, D Manhattan) but Farrell says, still no vote scheduled and little debate…which would be before any prospects of a vote by the entire Senate or for the Child Victims Act to become law.
New York Loves Kids holds a panel discussion on the bill Monday Night at 6:00 pm at the Crest Hill Suites Hotel off of Carrier Circle.