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What New York is getting wrong

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What New York is Getting Wrong

By Melanie Blow

 

 

First Published in The Buffalo News.

New York cannot both protect children and those who sexually abuse them. That’s why a fifth of New York’s children are sexually abused while only one in ten abusers ever see a day behind bars.

There is no effective way to prosecute child sexual abuse while abusers are protected by a Statute of Limitations on the crime. Research proves survivors need an average of 21 years before they can talk about their abuse1. Child sexual abuse is usually committed by someone the victim knows and trusts. That relationship allows the abuser to manipulate the child into years or decades of silence.

Child sexual abuse cases are often hard to prosecute, meaning justice in civil court is as important. A successful lawsuit creates documents that can block sex offenders from working with children. They ignite conversations within families, where half of child sexual abuse happens. The threat of lawsuits ensures institutions working with children adopt best practices that protect them.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates the cost of surviving child abuse at $210,000 per victim. Child sexual abuse is a stressor so intense it changes the way a child’s brain, endocrine system and DNA develop, making abuse survivors more likely to develop cancer, diabetes, and heart disease later in life, along with a host of mental illnesses. Currently, taxpayers shoulder most of this burden. New York Transferring the cost to guilty parties makes sense.

The Omnibus Child Victims Act, co-sponsored by Senator Tim Kennedy, will eliminate New York’s criminal and civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse, and provide a one-year window allowing victims already barred from the courts to sue their abusers or institutions that facilitated their abuse. The fate of this bill lies in the hands of the New York State Legislature.

New York lags behind the rest of the nation in allowing victims access to justice. Other states have passed similar legislation, and saw hundreds of old suits filed, hundreds of sex offenders exposed, and thousands of children protected. Even in civil court, defendants are innocent until proven guilty, so the burden of proof is always on the plaintiff. I know survivors with written confessions, witnesses and records acknowledging their abuse, whose abusers are protected by the law today.

No other legislation can do as much to prevent child sexual abuse as the Child Victims Act. Opposing this bill is essentially saying sex offenders have a right to mark their calendar and, on the assigned day, say “I got away with it”.

I don’t think most New Yorkers agree with that. There is only one week left in the legislative session. The time to pass meaningful reform is now.

 

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Melanie Blow

Melanie Blow

COO, Stop Abuse Campaign

A survivor of incest, psychological abuse and a host of other childhood trauma, Melanie now uses her talents to prevent Adverse Childhood Experiences. Melanie has over a decade of legislative advocacy regarding children’s issues, and she has been published in newspapers, magazines and blogs all across the country.

Melanie has an ACE score of 6.

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