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Blau, a spiritual adviser at Y.U. since the late 1970s, said that many victims take decades to come forward, finding the courage to speak out only after they have been in therapy, or once they have the support of a spouse. “It is clear to me that the statute of limitations… eliminates a large number… of people who cannot come forward [earlier],” Blau said.
He added: “I’ve been involved in this issue for a long period of time, and I certainly don’t think I should stop being involved because there’s a problem now at Yeshiva [University].”
A spokesman for Y.U. declined to comment on the institution’s view of the Child Victims Act. But, he added, “Yeshiva University faculty have the academic freedom to teach, discuss, research, publish or pursue any topics as they see fit.”
The New York State legislation was introduced by Markey, a Queens Democrat, last fall. Earlier versions of the bill have passed the state assembly four times, only to meet staunch opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate, where they have been blocked from coming to the floor for a vote.
Last year, following a tightly contested election, Republicans were able to cling to control of the Senate only by forming a pact with a handful of Democrats. One of those Democrats, Jeffrey Klein, supports extending the statute of limitations but only for criminal charges.
“I don’t believe that exposing religious institutions to open-ended, never ending, and potentially devastating civil liability is a smart approach,” Klein said. “Instead, I think we should give victims a better opportunity to pursue criminal charges against the individuals who commit these crimes.”
Evan Stavisky, a partner at the political consulting firm The Parkside Group, said that the Senate now passes relatively few items of controversial legislation, because of the political instability of its current, closely divided membership. Stavisky noted that the Senate passed gun control legislation in January and that, in the coming months, it is set to weigh reproductive health and minimum-wage legislation. “But certainly there is great support [for the Child Victims Act], so you can’t rule it dead until the session is over,” Stavisky said.
The bill’s chances would improve dramatically if New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo were to throw his support behind it. A spokesman for Cuomo did not respond to a call for comment.
Like its earlier versions, the Child Victims Act proposes a one-year window for victims to bring retroactive claims of abuse. Although previous versions of the act extended the statute of limitations by only five years the current version abolishes the statute entirely.