New York May Ease Statute of Limitations for Decades-Old Child Sex Abuse Claims

New York May Ease Statute of Limitations for Decades-Old Child Sex Abuse Claims

Bill Would Ease Path to Court for Yeshiva U. Victims

By Paul Berger

Edited By Larry Cohler-Esses

Published March 07, 2013, issue of March  15, 2013.

From the link:

Adults abused as children decades ago in New York could file civil lawsuits  against their abusers and the institutions that employed them, if a national  surge of legislative reform reaches Albany.

Advocates for child sex abuse victims say that this year, the prospects look  good for a bill that sank four times previously following strong opposition from  Catholic and ultra-Orthodox groups. If passed, the legislation could ease the  way for a slew of lawsuits against Jewish and Catholic institutions accused of  failing to report accounts of child sex abuse to law enforcement  authorities.

“I’ve never been more optimistic we can succeed in 2013,” the bill’s sponsor,  Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, said.

Yeshiva University may also be casting a wary eye toward Albany as it  continues to investigate a scandal involving abuse allegations first reported by  the Forward and dating back four decades.

The bill, known as the Child Victims Act, still faces a real test in the  state senate where a key Democrat, Jeffrey Klein, indicated he would not support  it.

But, Markey said, the success of similar legislation in other states as well  as a wave of similar bills being considered across the country this year gave  her hope.

The statute of limitations sets a time limit within which victims of abuse  must file civil claims against their alleged abusers or within which prosecutors  must seek indictments against alleged perpetrators. The statute for civil and  criminal charges varies state by state. In New York, those who claim they were  abused as children must file a civil claim before their 23rd birthday. But many  experts on child sexual abuse say it can take far longer than that for victims  of such abuse to understand and confront what was done to them, and then resolve  to go to court for redress, which can exacerbate already existing trauma.

This year, a dozen states are considering — or have already passed —  legislation that extends or lifts time limits for abuse victims to file civil  suits against individuals or institutions culpable for their abuse, or for  prosecutors to pursue criminal cases. The legislation covers only sexual abuse  cases occurring from the present day onwards, so some states are also  considering bills that would open up a brief window for retroactive claims.

Arkansas eliminated the criminal statute of limitations for sexual abuse in  February. Meanwhile, bills are pending in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and  California, among other states, that would extend or eliminate the statute of  limitations in criminal or civil cases. Some of these include so-called window  legislation. A bill that would eliminate the civil statute of limitations is  expected to be introduced in the New Jersey legislature soon.

“This is the most activity ever,” said Marci Hamilton, chair of public law at  Y.U.’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and one of the nation’s leading  advocates for ending the statute of limitations on abuse crimes. Hamilton said  that increased publicity about child abuse and about the legal hurdles that  victims face as adults when they try to file complaints has garnered enormous  support. “So many victims never get justice,” Hamilton said, noting that it  “really moved legislators to consider enacting these kinds of laws.”

Hamilton is among more than a dozen specialists who will testify at a public  hearing being held by the New York State Assembly’s Codes Committee, in  Manhattan, on March 8. Prosecutors, lawyers and advocates who have experience in  child sexual abuse cases are also expected to appear. They include individuals  who were involved with recent abuse scandals in institutions such as New York’s  Poly Prep Country Day School and the Horace Mann School.

Hamilton is one of two Y.U. employees who will appear at the hearing. Since  December of last year, more than 20 former students who attended the  university’s Manhattan high school for boys have told the Forward that they were  abused by two of the school’s staff members over a period ranging from the late  1970s to the early ’90s. Several said that they or their families alerted Y.U.  officials but got no response. Y.U. has commissioned a prominent law firm to  conduct an investigation into the allegations.

Neither Hamilton nor Rabbi Yosef Blau, the other Y.U. staff member who will  speak at the public hearing, said they would deliver testimony directly related  to — or defending — Y.U. Nevertheless, Hamilton, the author of a recent book  calling for the abolition of the statute of limitations, said she had made her  position clear to her employers.

“The cover-up of child sex abuse in any institution is a cancer,” Hamilton  said. “And unless you cut it out and get the authorities involved, and make good  for all that you did wrong, it will haunt you. And so it’s better for my  institution that they be made accountable and they are accountable than to let  it fester.” Blau said he intended to testify about his personal experiences  dealing with abuse that occurred decades ago.

Blau was one of three rabbis who served on a religious court that, during the  late 1980s, largely absolved an Orthodox Union youth leader, Baruch Lanner, of  abuse allegations. Blau said the rabbis set a limit of 10 years from any  incident for victims to testify against Lanner, which prevented many people from  coming forward. Lanner was allowed to continue working with children and was  convicted, in 2002, of sexually abusing two girls.

Blau, a spiritual adviser at Y.U. since the late 1970s, said that many  victims take decades to come forward, finding the courage to speak out only  after they have been in therapy, or once they have the support of a spouse. “It  is clear to me that the statute of limitations… eliminates a large number… of  people who cannot come forward [earlier],” Blau said.

He added: “I’ve been involved in this issue for a long period of time, and I  certainly don’t think I should stop being involved because there’s a problem now  at Yeshiva [University].”

A spokesman for Y.U. declined to comment on the institution’s view of the  Child Victims Act. But, he added, “Yeshiva University faculty have the academic  freedom to teach, discuss, research, publish or pursue any topics as they see  fit.”

The New York State legislation was introduced by Markey, a Queens Democrat,  last fall. Earlier versions of the bill have passed the state assembly four  times, only to meet staunch opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate,  where they have been blocked from coming to the floor for a vote.

Last year, following a tightly contested election, Republicans were able to  cling to control of the Senate only by forming a pact with a handful of  Democrats. One of those Democrats, Jeffrey Klein, supports extending the statute  of limitations but only for criminal charges.

“I don’t believe that exposing religious institutions to open-ended, never  ending, and potentially devastating civil liability is a smart approach,” Klein  said. “Instead, I think we should give victims a better opportunity to pursue  criminal charges against the individuals who commit these crimes.”

Evan Stavisky, a partner at the political consulting firm The Parkside Group,  said that the Senate now passes relatively few items of controversial  legislation, because of the political instability of its current, closely  divided membership. Stavisky noted that the Senate passed gun control  legislation in January and that, in the coming months, it is set to weigh  reproductive health and minimum-wage legislation. “But certainly there is great  support [for the Child Victims Act], so you can’t rule it dead until the session  is over,” Stavisky said.

The bill’s chances would improve dramatically if New York State Governor  Andrew Cuomo were to throw his support behind it. A spokesman for Cuomo did not  respond to a call for comment.

Like its earlier versions, the Child Victims Act proposes a one-year window  for victims to bring retroactive claims of abuse. Although previous versions of  the act extended the statute of limitations by only five years the current  version abolishes the statute entirely.

A spokesman for Markey, Mike Armstrong, said the assemblywoman was emboldened  to push for abolition of the statute because opposition to the bill appears to  have lost momentum. Armstrong said the perception that the act targets organized  religion has been weakened by recent prosecutions related to abuse scandals at  secular universities and schools, and in organizations like the Boy Scouts of  America.

In past years, the New York State Catholic Conference has lobbied hard  against the act, bolstered by Agudath Israel of America, an ultra-Orthodox  umbrella organization. But the Catholic Church itself has faced blows to its  reputation as scandals continue over its failure to confront sexual abuse of  children by Catholic clergy during past decades.

A spokesman for the Agudah declined to comment on the latest version of the  act. In an interview with the Forward last November, Rabbi David Zwiebel, the  Agudah’s executive vice president, said his organization supported criminal and  possibly civil prosecution of individuals. But the group strongly opposed any  legislation that opened up institutions to lawsuits because of the acts of an  employee.

“That’s where you are talking about the potential of really destroying some  very, very precious assets, which are our schools and shuls,” Zwiebel said. Hamilton is set to testify before the committee that such claims are  “irresponsible.”

In a copy of her testimony, provided to the Forward ahead of the hearing,  Hamilton said civil litigation in the United States has led to only two  bankruptcies, both voluntary and intended “to protect assets and avoid trials  that would have revealed the Roman Catholic bishop’s secrets regarding their  role in endangering children.”

In her book, “Justice Denied,” Hamilton said there “should be no arbitrary  and rigid time frame that permits the multimillionaire parent or wealthy  institution that fostered the sex abuse to believe their assets are wholly  protected from the victims they destroyed.

“Certainly, no perpetrator or institution that aided that perpetrator should  be secure in the knowledge that jail time and fines are beyond the survivor’s  reach.”

Contact Paul Berger at or on Twitter @pdberger



About victimsofrapebythercc

The Catechism offers a clear moral teaching: "Rape is the forcible violation of the sexual intimacy of another person. It does injury to justice and charity. Rape deeply wounds the respect, freedom, and physical and moral integrity to which every person has a right. It causes grave damage that can mark the victim for life. It is always an intrinsically evil act. Graver still is the rape of children committed by parents (incest) or those responsible for the education of the children entrusted to them." (no. 2356) Note that rape is "an intrinsically evil act," meaning that it is evil at its very root, nothing justifies it, and it is objectively a mortal sin. An evil act was done against me, a crime, by a priest at St Thomas More Parish in Durham, NH. An evil and a crime I will no longer keep silent about. Those who perpetrate crimes against children, especially those of the Roman Catholic Church, should all be punished for their crimes against children. Anything less would be criminal.

Posted on March 7, 2013, in Child Sex Abuse, Clergy Abuse, Clergy Sex Abuse, Pope Benedict, Pope Benedict XVI, Priest Child Sex Abuse, Religion, Roman Catholic Church, Roman Catholic Church Sex Abuse and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.


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