New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday that he wanted to pass a bill that would make it easier for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to seek justice from their abusers as adults.
By bowing to repeated calls by victims and advocates, Cuomo’s comments seem to remove a roadblock to the reform measure — although the governor still remains unclear on certain details.
“This is an incredibly important issue and we are serious about addressing it this [legislative] session,” said Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi, according to the Daily News. “We have been discussing options with the Legislature, have met with advocates and survivors, and are meeting with them again (Thursday).”
The governor, Azzopardi continued, will push to extend the legal time frame for an adult abused as a child to bring a civil lawsuit, the Daily News reported. It appears Cuomo would seek to remove the statute of limitation for bringing child sex abuse criminal cases — but the governor’s office did not clarify whether Cuomo would support removing the statute of limitation on civil cases.
The legislation being pushed now would remove the statute of limitation on civil cases.
What’s more, Cuomo did not make clear whether he would support another important part of the current legislation — the establishment of a one-year window for older survivors to bring forward past claims of sexual abuse.
A representative from Cuomo’s office declined to provide more details.
Cuomo has previously dodged questions from both the press and activists as to whether he would support current legislation, known as the Child Victims Act, which would eliminate New York’s statute of limitations for sexual abuse, one of the shortest in the nation. Currently, survivors have until their 23rd birthday to bring forward legal claims about their abuse.
Over 100 Jewish leaders, including rabbis from all major denominations, are lobbying in support of the legislation. A significant contingent of Jewish backers claim to have been abused by rabbis or teachers in religious schools as children.
Leaders of New York’s Assembly have promised a vote the legislation before the end of the legislative session and have a strong majority of supporters. But the Republican-ruled Senate has historically blocked the measure—versions of which have been languishing in Albany for a decade. This legislative session ends on June 16.
In past years, Agudath Israel of America, a Jewish Orthodox umbrella group, and the powerful Roman Catholic Church, have opposed the bill.
Agudath has previously said that the legislation “could subject schools and other vital institutions in communities like ours to ancient claims and litigation and place their very existence in severe jeopardy.”
Neither group responded to Forward requests for comment about whether they still oppose the measure.
Sam Kestenbaum is a contributing editor and former staff writer for the Forward. Before this, he worked for The New York Times and newsrooms in Sana, Ramallah and Beijing. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @skestenbaum and on Instagram at @skestenbaum.