By Glenn Blain (NY Daily News)
May 25, 2016
ALBANY — State Senate Republicans now have more than 27,000 new reasons to stop blocking legislation that would help child sex abuse victims obtain justice.
Advocates on Wednesday presented Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan’s office with a petition containing 27,276 names of people calling for the elimination of the statute of limitations for cases of child sex abuse.
“New York State needs to do a better job protecting children and not their rapists,” said Andrew Willis, chief executive officer of the The Stop Abuse Campaign, which organized the electronic petition drive.
“We'd like you to have this so that you know the people of New York and wider don't believe that you should be standing in the way of this bill because children are continuing to be molested and raped,” Willis said as he handed over a large looseleaf binder containing the names to a member of Flanagan’s staff.
Flanagan (R-Suffolk County) declined to come out of his office to receive the petitions, instead sending out Senior Advisor Peter Mooney.
“I’ll take a look at this, thank you,” Mooney said before heading back behind closed doors.
“I would hope that the senator would have met with us and talked about the reasons that they are blocking the bill,” Willis said afterward.
The petitions were delivered just days after Senate Republicans blocked an effort by Democrats to bring legislation eliminating the statute of limitations for child sex offenses to a vote on the Senate floor.
Flanagan spokesman Scott Reif said Flanagan “is going to look at” the petition but declined to comment further.
The Stop Abuse Campaign, which is based in Harlem and dedicated to ending abuse of children, collected the petitions via the internet over the past four years. It also calls for a look-back window for victims to be able to revive old cases.
Willis estimated that about 60% of the signatures came from New Yorkers and the rest from people across the country and overseas.
“It also shows that the entire world is watching what New York is doing,’ said Melanie Blow, 38, chief operating officer of the campaign.
Blow, who grew up near Buffalo and now lives in Rochester, said she was raped by her father when she was 13 but did not decide to take legal action against him until she was 31 — when it was already too late.
New York law only gives victims until they are 23 to bring civil claims against their abusers.
“It is the only way I could get documentation saying this is what happened to me,” Blow said.
Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), who has sponsored legislation to eliminate the statute of limitations, said the petition shows it’s time for the Legislature to act.
The Senate and Assembly gaveled out for the week Wednesday and will not return to Albany until June 1. The legislative session is scheduled to end on June 16, leaving only nine session days for lawmakers to resolve the issue.
“Time is running out,” Hoylman said. “We need to come to a conclusion on a way to help survivors get access to justice as well as improve public safety.”