Gov. Cuomo will push law allowing child-abuse victims to seek justice as adults

By Kenneth Lovett (NY Daily News)
May 19, 2016

ALBANY — After being called out by victims, Gov. Cuomo on Wednesday said he wanted to pass a bill in the next few weeks that would make it easier for adults who were sexually abused as kids to seek justice.

“This is an incredibly important issue and we are serious about addressing it this session,” Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi said. “We have been discussing options with the Legislature, have met with advocates and survivors, and are meeting with them again (Thursday).”

The governor, Azzopardi said, will push to extend the legal time frame for an adult abused as a child to bring a civil lawsuit. Currently, adults victimized as children have until their 23rd birthday to bring a case.

Cuomo would seek to do away entirely with the statute of limitation as it pertains to bringing child sex abuse criminal cases.

And he would look to change a law that requires victims who were abused in a public institution like a school to file a notice of intent to sue within just 90 days of the date when the incident occurred.

Less clear is whether the governor supports the idea of giving adult child abuse victims who no longer can bring a civil case under current law a one-year window to sue.

“We want a law that extends the statute of limitations and allows victims an opportunity at seek the justice they deserve, while at the same time ensuring due process,” Azzopardi said. “This is a very important matter and all sides must be heard.”

The comments from Cuomo’s office came a day after a sexual abuse victim ripped into the governor for his “passivity” on the issue.

When asked about the issue on Tuesday by the Daily News, which has been championing the new law, Cuomo gave a less definitive mealy-mouthed answer.

Michael Armstrong, a spokesman for Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, a Queens Democrat who has long sponsored legislation to make it easier for adults abused as kids to seek justice, was encouraged to hear the latest words from the governor, though he hopes there will soon be more details. He credited The News’ campaign with helping move the issue.

“The governor’s comments certainly moves the needle somewhat — and maybe more,” Armstrong said. “It will be interesting to see how it plays out. It’s the most affirmative thing he’s had to say on the subject.”

But he quickly added, “The question now is, is he going to do anything about it?”

Lawmakers have 12 more session days scheduled as the legislative calendar is set to end June 16.

Cuomo, aides said, tried to set up a meeting with sexual abuse survivors on Wednesday, but it did not happen because of scheduling conflicts. Instead, a group will meet with top Cuomo aides Thursday at his New York City office. Cuomo won’t attend as he will be at the hospital with his celebrity chef girlfriend, Sandra Lee, who is having breast reconstruction surgery after having a double mastectomy last year.

Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said Wednesday that he has been surveying his Democratic members to gauge their interest in taking up a bill to reform the statute of limitations.

But to Kathryn Robb, a child sex abuse survivor who accuses her older brother of molesting her, Heastie needs to do more than take the pulse of his members. Robb, 56, says Heastie needs to push legislators to act.

“Yes, it’s up to the members, but he doesn't hold the leadership position for nothing,” she said. “He actually has to be a leader.”