Finally! Some clarity in New York. And a clear deadline for child sexual abuse victims – August 14, 2021.
Just today, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill to this effect, ending months of confusion.
Politics in New York has always been Byzantine. And in our experience, the more Byzantine politics is, the more the vulnerable lose. Here’s a short, non-Byzantine summary of how this law finally happened.
Last year, after tons of very hard work by survivors and advocates, the New York legislature passed a one year window. It meant anyone who was molested at any time by anyone could bring a civil lawsuit against the individual who caused the harm AND the institution that concealed the harm.
Then the governor signed in into law.
Then the pandemic hit. Victims couldn’t meet in person with therapists, police or attorneys. Attorneys couldn’t file lawsuits.
Then, in a smart and compassionate move, the governor issued an executive order extending the deadline for child sex abuse and cover up lawsuits.
Then, legal scholars raised concerns.
“The governor can’t unilaterally alter a measure after it’s taken effect,” some claimed. “The legislature set the deadline, so only the legislature can change it,” others argued.
So, that’s what the legislature did. They passed a new bill extending the deadline for victims to come forward.
But while extending the deadline, lawmakers also threw a whole lot of other stuff into the same bill.
And Cuomo wasn’t sure he supports some of that stuff.
So he pondered whether or not to sign the new extension.
Adults molested as kids in New York were worried and confused. So were some of the attorneys who represent them.
But all’s well that ends well, and this saga ended well today, with Governor Cuomo’s signature.
Victims should breathe a sign of relief. But they should also pick up the phone. It’s time to break your silence, expose your predator, get some justice and move further down the road to real healing.
And they should think about other classmates, parishioners, campers, Scout troop members who may have also been hurt. . .and urge them to come forward now.
The new, official, undisputed deadline is now August 14, 2021. That’s when victims must file lawsuits if they want the public to know who committed and concealed horrors and if they want the justice system to help them recover.
Sadly, there are still some Catholic officials, notably Rockville Centre Bishop John Barres, who are challenging the fundamental legality of the window itself. The church hierarchy has done this in state after state. Fortunately, they’ve never won this argument.
But this uncertainty compounds the fears of survivors. It helps wrongdoers stay hidden. It enriches defense lawyers. And it adds to the costs paid by rank-and-file Catholics.
Still, bishops insist on delaying. On secrecy. On keeping boys and girls at risk. On exploiting every technical maneuver they and their lawyers can find, in the hopes of keeping the complicity hidden.
Today, though, is a victory for kids, victims and families. Let’s celebrate it. And let’s take advantage of it to make New York a safer place.