Survivors, Vera House Advocates Tirelessly Fought for Passage of NYS Child Victims Act

Feb 4, 2019

(L-R) Vera House Survivor Network members: Angela Douglas, Jenn Nadler and Alexandra Dukat.
Credit John Smith / WAER News

The fight for the passage of the Child Victims Act in New York State can also be traced back to Syracuse and the courageous survivors who are now empowering others through their work at Vera House and beyond.  A week ago today, the State Legislature passed the act that will open up a one year window for victims to come forward, six months after Governor Cuomo officially signs it. 

Jenn Nadler recalls what is was like when she had the first opportunity to meet with former Senator John DeFrancisco after he and another lawmaker voted the legislation down.  

“He listened to what I had to say but, I didn’t feel that I was really being heard.  Although he was sorry for what happened to me, he said it didn’t change his mind.”

Even though she felt defeated after that meeting, Nadler kept fighting and thanks all of the brave survivors and allies who sent letters, made calls and travelled to Albany to take a stand.

“It would take over a decade of scratching and clawing and inching our way to the top but, here we are today… the Child Victims Act finally passed.  Sexual abuse does not discriminate.  It is this insidious pandemic that cuts across gender and race, ethnicity, religion and political party.  It’s going to take time for our world to understand the damage done by perpetrators and it’s going to take time to change our culture… but, times are changing.”

At last week’s gathering in Syracuse to commemorate the passage, Senator DeFrancisco’s successor, Bob Antonacci shared that he supported the legislation as a former Vera House Board Member.  He also insisted that the act include a broader definition of who could be sued.  He suggests that other lawmakers, who voted it down originally; may have desired that all along.

“My predecessor and the past conference may have been opposed not to the CVA but, certain aspects of the CVA.  I was adamant that it had to include all institutions being able to be sued by these survivors.”

Antonacci is also a lawyer and has already heard from a young girl who wants to go forward with her story after she missed her initial 90 day window to file a complaint.

NYS Senator Bob Antonacci speaks with an attendee last week at Vera House to celebrate the passage of the Child Victims Act.
Credit John Smith/WAER News

“I have a young lady that was abused by her teacher.  She missed the 90 day notice of claim.  Now, I’ve advised her.  I’ve reached out to her and said, ‘hey you need to know about this.”  She will have an opportunity now to sue the school district.  It’ll be an opportunity that she would not have had.  She would not have been even able to get into the courthouse.”

Vera House Survivors Network members like Angela Douglas are now advocating for others.  Hopefully their inspiring words will be enough for others to come out of the shadows and take the courageous steps to share their stories, when the time comes. 

“Our truth can be heard and acted upon.  Perhaps the complicity by institutions and other adults that give perpetrators freedom will erode away and this gets us closer to where we need to be.  Today is a day we celebrate.”

The Child Victims Act doesn’t provide monetary assistance to victims to help defray their legal fees, something that Senator Antonacci says Democrats were reluctant to support.