Editorial: Protection, not politics, for victims
They didn’t help women and children last year. What’s going to be their excuse this year?
Two major pieces of legislation that the state Legislature failed to pass last year would have helped victims of child and sex abuse get justice, helped women attain comparable wages and protection from sexual harassment in the workplace, tightened laws on human trafficking that most often affects children and adult females, and helped protect domestic violence victims from discrimination.
One of the bills, the Child Victims Crime Bill, is being held up in the state Senate, which is controlled by Republicans. Essentially, it would eliminate the statute of limitations on new sex crimes (essentially giving traumatized victims an unlimited time to come forward and bring charges) and provide a one-year window for past victims to come forward. Religious organizations oppose all or part of the bill, fearing they will have to pay to settle age-old allegations that are difficult to prove or disprove.
On the other side, the Democrat-controlled Assembly is holding up passage of the Women’s Equality Act, a package of nine bills designed to protect women. The Senate has already passed eight of the nine bills individually this session, leaving the controversial ninth bill on abortion rights for another time.
The Assembly, as it did last year, insists on considering the bills as an all-or-nothing deal, meaning the abortion part of the bill is holding up the other eight bills related to domestic violence victims, child abuse and the other issues that have nothing to do with abortion.
Inaction on these bills is not acceptable.
On the child/sex abuse bill, they need to eliminate the statute of limitations on child sex crimes, as other states have done, and allow the one-year window for cases to be brought retroactively. As for religious organizations’ arguments that it’s unfair to try to prosecute old cases, let the courts decide the validity of past claims. That’s what the courts are for. The alternative is allowing sex offenders in the church and elsewhere to go unpunished because the victims were too traumatized to come forward right away.
And on the women’s rights bill, the Assembly needs to vote on each bill individually instead of as a package. The protections these bills provide for women and children are necessary and shouldn’t be hung up over the politics of abortion.
Certain women’s reproductive rights are already protected under federal law but not under New York’s. That should be addressed, but it doesn’t have to hold up the whole package.
If state lawmakers seriously care about women and children, they’ll stop the political shenanigans and prove their concern by turning these important bills into law.