Why will Dylan Farrow never be able to bring her father Woody Allen to court for allegedly sexually abusing her when she was 7-years-old?
Why is Bridie Farrell unable to press charges against Olympic speedskater and former US Speedskating President Andrew Gabel for allegedly abusing her when she was 15?
Both of these men are protected by statutes of limitations.
Statutes of limitations exist for a good reason. The more time that elapses after an incident, the harder it becomes to secure evidence and witnesses for trial. Statutes of limitations protect defendants from long-delayed accusations.
However, as with any rule, there are exceptions. For instance, there is no statute of limitations for murder.
Considering the fact that it often takes victims of sex crimes, particularly child victims, many years to speak up against their assailants, one might expect that cases of rape and sexual assault against children would be granted exception as well.
But that isn’t the case.
In New York, children who have been sexually abused have until the age of 23 to bring charges. If the abuse took place within a public institution, the child only has 90 days to file a notice of intent to sue.
For the last 10 years, New York Assemblywoman Margaret Markey has been fighting to eliminate statutes of limitations for sex offenses against children, by means of the Child Victims Act.
Faced with opposition from a Republican majority in the State Senate, Democratic senators attempted to attach the Child Victims Act to a human sex trafficking bill earlier this week.
“Child sex abuse is a widespread problem,” said Democratic Senator Brad Hoylman, who sponsored the Child Victims Act in the Senate. “We can do something about it today.”
However, rather than allowing a vote on the amended bill, the Republican senator presiding over the session, Joseph A. Griffo ruled that the Child Victims Act was not germane to the human trafficking bill. When the Senate voted on whether to overturn Senator Griffo’s ruling, Senate Republicans thwarted the Child Victims Act with a unanimous vote.
A spokesperson for Senate Republicans offered a weak justification for their voting against the bill, “The Senate Democrats have engaged in an unfortunate political stunt at a time when we are attempting to have an honest and serious discussion about this issue.”
On Wednesday, Andrew Willis, CEO of the Stop Abuse Campaign presented the office of Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan with a petition listing 27,276 signatures demanding the elimination of statutes of limitations in child sex crime cases.
With mounting public pressure to bring an end to statutes of limitations in these cases, why would anyone in the New York State Senate hesitate to pass the Child Victims Act?
One likely answer is the powerful lobbying efforts of religious groups like Agudath Israel of America, a leadership umbrella organization for Orthodox Jewish groups, as well as the Catholic Church.
“State government should protect our children and stand up for the victims of this heinous crime. We will continue the fight to pass this legislation and ensure that justice is finally served,” said Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
Whether it is through the Child Victims Act or some similar legislation, the statutes of limitations on sex crimes against children need to be eliminated. It is unthinkable that our State Senate is still protecting the perpetrators and enablers of sexual abuse, rather than their victims.
Sources: Blain, Glenn and Kenneth Lovett, “Senate Republicans block Democrats from forcing vote on Child Victims Act,” NY Daily News, 23 May 2016.
Blain, Glenn, “NY Senate GOP receives 27,000-name petition to end statute of limitations on child sex abuse,” NY Daily News, 25 May 2016.
Blau, Reuven and Larry McShane, “Coalition of Jewish leaders backs Child Victims Act, demand end to New York’s statute of limitation,” NY Daily News, 29 April 2016.
Churchill, Chris, “Time to Pass Child Victims Act Is Now,” Times Union, 18 May 2016.