Cuomo stands for justice for child sexual assault victims

By New York Daily News Editorial Team
May 20, 2016

For a full two hours, Gov. Cuomo on Thursday engaged with men and women who suffered sex abuse as minors and are pressing Albany to reform statutes of limitations that deny justice to countless victims.

Kudos to Cuomo for affording the citizen activists the attention they deserve — and continue to be denied by leaders of the state Legislature.

While Cuomo explored the difficult legal and moral questions surrounding rewriting civil and criminal statutes of limitations, legislative leaders arrogantly maintained their anti-democratic practice of conducting the people’s business behind closed doors.

Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie refused to answer even the most basic questions about their positions.

Daily News readers will know that this newspaper has campaigned since March for reforms to criminal and civil statutes of limitations for sex crimes against minors. The case of an alleged serial predator who could not be prosecuted on some accusations cried out for rewriting the law.

Since then, widespread injustices emerged from the complexities of New York’s criminal and civil legal time limits.

The denial of recourse to hundreds, if not thousands, of victims is so clear that any reasonable observer would have expected elected officials to rush forward like knights to the rescue.

But no. At first, Cuomo offered only meaningless statements of good intentions. Heastie and Flanagan consigned victims to meet with aides.

That changed Wednesday evening, when the governor’s office said he would back a measure that would:

• Eliminate the statute of limitations on criminal sex offenses against minors.

The Legislature had done so for the most serious crimes, such as rape, but left the clock ticking on others, notably those involving manual molestation. Cuomo’s on the side of the angels here.

• Scrap a provision that requires filing a notice within 90 days of wrongdoing in order to sue a government agency on an allegation of sex abuse.

Rightly, the governor recognizes that private and public employers must face equal liability.

• Extend the statute of limitations on civil actions in a time frame that “allows victims an opportunity at seeking the justice they deserve, while at the same time ensuring due process.”

By due process, Cuomo refers to statutes of limitations as offering necessary protections against being charged with wrongdoing long after the fact, when the accused may have lost the ability to mount a proper defense.

The time limit to sue an abuser is now five years after an alleged victim turns 18 — and just three years after 18 to sue a potentially guilty institution.

Coming to grips with the psychological scars of abuse can take years. Many victims are unprepared to go to court by 23, let alone 21. They should be given at least to the age of 28 and far better to the age of 35.

In his public statement, the governor left a blank on giving past victims one year to file suits.

Those who oppose the provision worry that potential defendants, such as a Catholic diocese or schools of other faiths, could face large, potentially bankrupting monetary judgments.

While the concern is real, there should be greater trust in the courts to sift legitimate claims. Opponents must reckon with the truth that they are placing financial interests over the deep, life-scarring harm inflicted on minors by monsters.

They’re protecting predators and enablers, only because of money. May Cuomo’s meeting with victims lead to an end to that abomination.