The recent exposure of sexually predatory behavior by many powerful men in government, Hollywood, and the media across the United States has led to increased calls for the State of New York to change its laws regarding child sexual abuse.
As a Christian organization, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms deplores child sexual abuse. Sex crimes against children have a profound, negative, and lasting impact upon those who experience them. Both government and private institutions should make the protection of children their highest priority.
The Child Protection Act (Bill S.5660-Lanza/A.7302-Cusick)* would abolish the statute of limitations applicable to sex crimes against children, and would extend the commencement of the statute of limitations applicable to civil claims for money damages arising out of physical and emotional harms suffered by child victims. (A statute of limitations is the period of time within which a court action may be commenced.) Under the Child Protection Act, the statute of limitations applicable in civil claims for child sexual abuse would not expire until a survivor of child sexual abuse had reached the age of 28. The Child Protection Act would also expand existing legal requirements regarding reporting child sexual abuse to the authorities.
New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms supports the Child Protection Act. This bill is a laudable effort to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice, and that persons who have suffered child sexual abuse are compensated for their pain and suffering.
* The Child Protection Act is different from the Child Victims Act (Bill S.6575-Hoylman/A.5885-A-Rosenthal). NYCF opposes the Child Victims Act because it contains a one-year “lookback” provision. This one-year “lookback” provision would create a one-year period within which civil lawsuits could be filed against alleged predators and against institutions that employed those alleged predators during the period when the alleged abuse occurred, regardless of whether the statute of limitations affecting such lawsuits had already expired. In other words, if a person claims to have been sexually abused at a community center in 1962 by an employee of that community center, the Child Victims Act would allow that person to sue the community center. “Lookback” provisions give individuals an incentive to file baseless lawsuits, whether to profit from favorable settlements or to attack persons or institutions deemed to be controversial. In addition, these provisions place churches, nonprofits, and others in the unfair position of defending against lawsuits based on alleged events that occurred decades ago; the passage of time could make it difficult or impossible for these defendants to gather evidence and defend themselves against false allegations. NYCF believes that the law should provide redress to persons who have been subjected to heinous crimes; however, we do not believe that the law should open the floodgates for false claims.