Daily News’ front page story inspires Queens mom to fight for justice for victims of child abuse

By Michael O’Keeffe and Larry Mcshane (NY Daily News)
May 4, 2016

Queens mom Ana Wagner saw the Daily News front page urging New York politicians to hold child predators accountable — and took off for Albany.

“The whole day just changed,” said Wagner, 35, who brought a roomful of abuse survivors and Child Victims Act advocates to tears Tuesday afternoon with her tale of a predatory adult from her past.

Wagner made the trip north because she knew the people at the round table on child sexual abuse would believe her long-suppressed story.

And Wagner, assaulted by a friend of her father at age 9, made a point about the importance of changing the state’s statute of limitations when it comes to child molesters.

“At 26, I finally got the courage to make a report,” she said. “But the police told me it was too late. (The report) is just sitting there, collecting dust.”

Her surprise appearance and moving recollection highlighted the first day of a two-day lobbying effort aimed at persuading state legislators to pass the bill first introduced in 2006. It has never passed.

Under current state law, victims have until their 23rd birthday to file a civil suit or bring criminal charges against their attackers.

Wagner told abuse survivor Ronald Savage — whose teary face appeared on Tuesday’s front page — that he inspired her impromptu road trip.

“I appreciate you coming here to support me,” replied Savage, 50, before sharing a hug with her. “This is a fight for all victims of sexual abuse.”

Savage told The News he was abused by hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa. He was one of a growing number of abuse victims who shared their stories with The News.

Fellow survivor Kathryn Robb, abused as a kid on Long Island, moved to Massachusetts and helped reform that state’s handling of such cases.

Victims there can file criminal charges there for up to 27 years after their 16th birthday — two decades longer than in New York.

“New York is living in the Dark Ages,” Robb, 56, said. “I want to ask the leaders, ‘Where are you?’ ... Every time we close the courthouse doors to victims, we allow abusers to abuse again and again.”

Marci Hamilton, a University of Pennsylvania law professor and victim advocate, said New York ranks among the worst three states in the nation when it comes to this issue.

Wagner was headed to a Long Island gym Tuesday but instead dropped off her three kids with her mom and made the three-hour journey once she saw The News.

She stressed that changing the law to allow civil and criminal charges against accused molesters without a cutoff date had nothing to do with collecting a cash settlement.

“Who cares about money?” she asked. “You want to blacklist them, so people know to keep their kids away.”

Wagner told the crowd in the state Legislative Office Building about how the older man molested her inside her dad’s print shop, groping her and forcing her to touch him.

As is typical of adult predators, he swore Wagner to secrecy — in her case, making her promise on a Bible not to tell her parents. He continued to touch her inappropriately over the years.

The victims weren’t alone in making the trip to the state capital in support of the bill. Jewish and black religious leaders joined the lobbying effort.

“It is time for the religious leaders ... to stop playing games and get onboard with the Child Victims Act,” said longtime bill advocate Mark Meyer Appel.

State Sen. Brad Hoylman, one of the sponsors of the legislation, said the legislators needed to listen to the people targeted by the sexual perverts as kids.

“I thank the survivors for taking on the taboo that you are not supposed to talk about childhood sexual abuse,” said the Manhattan Democrat.

“Martin Luther King said justice delayed is justice denied,” he added. “The truth is justice is being denied to hundreds and hundreds of sex abuse survivors in New York State.”

On Wednesday morning, members of the Catholic Coalition of Conscience will hold a half-hour “walking vigil” outside the entrance to the state Capitol in support of the legislation.

“We ask our legislators, ‘Which side are you on: Children or predators?’" the group said in a statement. “It’s time for a vote.”