They Were Sexually Abused Long Ago as Children. Now They Can Sue in N.Y.
ALBANY — For more than a decade, victims of childhood sexual abuse in New York have asked lawmakers here for the chance to seek justice — only to be blocked by powerful interests including insurance companies, private schools and leaders from the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish communities.
As activists and Democratic officials pushed to strengthen protections for child abuse victims, those opposing interests — wealthy and closely tied to members of the then Republican-controlled State Senate — warned that permitting victims to revive decades-old claims could lead churches, schools and community organizations into bankruptcy. For 13 years, the so-called Child Victims Act foundered.
But in November, Democrats won control of the Senate. And on Monday, both the Senate and Assembly overwhelmingly approved the Child Victims Act, ending a bitter, protracted battle with some of the most powerful groups in the state. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has promised to sign the bill into law.
Every senator, Republican and Democrat, voted for the bill — even though it never even came to the Senate floor for a vote under the Republican majority. The bill passed the Assembly 130-3.
The new legislation would put New York well within the upper half of states nationwide in terms of protections for child victims, according to Michael Pfau, a lawyer who has represented victims of childhood sexual abuse. But, he added, it would still fall short of making the state a national leader. California introduced a one-year look-back window like New York’s in 2003 but is considering opening another one to accommodate the victims who could not be addressed in time.