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Why I support the Child Victims Act

3dbacd5d-30f9-4f80-9f9a-2f57e6113844I'm going to Albany today to join colleagues (rabbinic and otherwise) in visibly supporting the Child Victims Act.

This legislation would change New York's statute of limitations for the crime of sexually assaulting a child, so that those who are sexually abused as children can seek justice. (You can read the bill here.) 

A study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration of Children and Families found that 34% of childhood sexual abuse victims are under the age of nine. I have an eight year old, so that statistic hits home for me in a visceral way. At that age, most victims don't have the vocabulary to articulate what was done to them. Most victims aren't able to report their abuse until much later in life -- by which time, at least as New York law currently stands, nothing can be done. The Child Victims Act would change that.

If the #MeToo movement of the last few months has taught us anything, it’s that it is extremely painful and risky for victims of sexual harassment or assault — even those with power, money and connections — to speak out against their abusers. Now consider how much harder it must be for a child.

It should surprise no one that a vast majority of people who were sexually abused as children never report it. For those who do, it takes years, and often decades, to recognize what happened to them, realize it wasn’t their fault and tell someone. The trauma leads to higher rates of alcoholism and drug abuse, depression, suicide and other physical and psychological problems that cost millions or billions to treat — money that should be paid not by taxpayers, but by the offenders and the institutions that cover for them.

For these reasons, many states — including eight last year alone — have done the right thing and extended or eliminated statutes of limitations for the reporting of child sexual abuse. This has encouraged more victims to come forward and seek justice for abuse that was never properly addressed, if it was addressed at all.

New York, which has had no shortage of child sex-abuse scandals, should be on that list. In fact, it should be leading the nation on this issue. Instead it, along with Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama and Michigan, is one of the states with the least victim-friendly reporting laws in the country. New York requires most child sex-abuse victims to sue by the age of 23, 19 years before the average age at which such victims report their abuse...

(That's from a recent editorial from the New York Times editorial board: Albany, Pass the Child Victims Act.)

I did my chaplaincy residency at Albany Medical Center, and I have congregants who live over the border in New York state, so I feel multiple layers of connection to New York and New Yorkers. I also have beloveds who were sexually assaulted as children in the state of New York. For their sake, and for the sake of the (too many) others like them, I hope and pray that this legislation passes at long last.

I'm honored to stand with colleagues today (including my Bayit co-founder Rabbi Mike Moskowitz, who recently wrote Why on earth are Orthodox Jews opposing the Child Victims Act?)  in support of the passage of the Child Victims Act.