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Child Victims Act expected to pass state Legislature Monday


The Child Victims Act is scheduled to be approved in the state Legislature next week. Sponsors said they have fixed a perceived flaw in the legislation that opponents said could provide a loophole for public schools in sexual abuse cases.

The Catholic Church recently pulled back on its long-standing opposition to provisions of the Child Victims Act that end the statute of limitations for survivors to bring suits against their abusers.

But church leaders said the measure, as written, might shield public schools and other institutions such  as hospitals because it did not change a law that says anyone filing suit against a public entity must file a notice of claim by 90 days after the incident.

Senate sponsor Brad Hoylman said he believes the measure supersedes that rule and would treat private and public institutions equally. But he said he and the Assembly sponsor, Linda Rosenthal, are adding clarifying language to the bill to end any doubts.

“We’ll do everything we can to make it as explicit as possible,” Hoylman said. “That the bill is evenhanded in its application to both public and private institutions.”

The Catholic Church dropped all opposition to the bill late last week. 

In a statement, Rosenthal said, “The horrific sins of past abuse can never be absolved, but the passage of the Child Victims Act will deliver an opportunity for accountability and redress that survivors in New York have never before had.” 

Hoylman said passing the law would give survivors some justice and would also prevent future victims because the court actions would “out” alleged perpetrators and remove them from situations where they interact with children.

“There’s a very important public safety component,” Hoylman said. “Through the rules of evidence and normal discovery, it helps point out the fact that some predators may still be working in schools or have contact with children because they’ve never been identified as such.”

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.