Under current New York State law, victims of child abuse must file civil suits before they turn 23, but under legislation being considered in Albany, that age limit would be eliminated. NY1’s Zack Fink filed the following report.
For Michael Desantis, the abuse took place within the Catholic Church when he was a child. But like many victims, his memories were suppressed.
“Raped, sodomized many times for a good four-year period,” he said. “The memory came back when I was about 33 years old.”
It turns out 33 was too late to sue for damages, because under current New York law, victims must file suit by age 23.
“New York is the worst state in the country at this point,” said Marci Hamilton of Cardozo Law School. “Other states have been amending their statutes. New York has stuck with some of the shortest in the country.”
But a movement is under way to change that. A bill would give former victims a one-year window to file suit, no matter how old they are when their memories surface.
“The Child Victims Act would eliminate the statute of limitations for people who were sexually abused as a child,” said Queens Assemblywoman Margaret Markey.
Last year, a New York Times Magazine article claimed that more than 30 former students at the prestigious Horace Mann school in the Bronx were claiming to have been sexually abused by faculty.
There have been numerous accusations against archdioceses throughout the country. And last December, 20 former students at Yeshiva University High School for Boys in Manhattan claimed to have faced abuse from two elderly faculty members who have since left the country.
Paul Berger wrote about the abuse at Yeshiva for the The Forward Newspaper.
“In some ways, these institutions hold themselves to a higher moral standard, and so, when we learn about abuse or cover up, people tend to be more disappointed that they haven’t lived up to them,” Berger said.
Through a spokesman, State Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein said he does not think its’s a smart approach to open up religious institutions to open-ended, potentially devastating civil liability. That could prove a problem for this bill, since Klein can block legislation from coming to the Senate floor.