What oddly took years to pass was finally–and overwhelmingly approved last week when the New York State Legislature voted through the Child Victims Act.
The legislation, which had been on the table for years before a new Democratic majority in the state senate took charge this year, was passed unanimously by the senate and by a wide margin in the assembly as lawmakers from across the political spectrum lauded the new law. All state representatives that cover parts of Putnam County approved the measure.
The law will increase the statue of limitations for cases of child sexual abuse. Child victims can seek prosecution against their abuser until the age of 55 in civil cases, which is a sharp increase from the previous age limit of 23. As for criminal prosecution, the age limit would be until they turn 28. The bill also allows a one-year window where victims of any age limit or time limit can pursue a prosecution.
“The only sin, I believe, greater than abusing a child would be protecting those who abuse a child,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a forum in Albany last week.
GOP Sen. Sue Serino voted for the bill, stating for every victim that speaks out, it gets more abusers off the streets. But she would have liked to see the legislation do more to hold perpetrators criminally responsible.
“I have met with countless survivors and it has become abundantly clear that there are far, far too many children being victimized and scared into silence,” Serino said in a statement. “Enough is enough, we need to do more to better protect New York’s children.”
GOP Assemblyman Kevin Byrne, who voted for the act, said everyone deserves the opportunity to seek justice against his or her abuser.
“I’ve supported this legislation in the past and believe the passage of this new law was a great example of how the legislature can work together across the aisle and be a voice for voiceless,” Byrne said in a statement.
Prior to the vote, Sen. Peter Harckham said on the senate chamber floor the bill would go a long way in giving victims the justice they deserve. He said it would be an honor to vote for the bill and was gratified to see the bipartisan support for the measure.
“Everyone of us in this room knows somebody who was abused as a child,” he said. “We may not know it, but everyone of us knows someone.”