By Ted Ryan and Victoria Espinoza
Residents of the North Shore gathered at Veterans Memorial Park in St. James Oct. 15, to raise awareness of sexual abuse of children in New York state.
Democratic candidate for the state Senate race in the 2nd District, Peter Magistrale, hosted the rally. He is advocating for a change to the current statute of limitations that restricts when a child rape victim can come forward with a civil or criminal case against their abuser.
In New York, once victims turn 23 they can no longer make a case for child abuse against the predator in question.
According to research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. In addition, the National Center for Victims of Crime said 14 percent of sexual offenders commit another sexual offense after five years, and 24 percent after 15 years.
The National Sex Offender Public Website stated children usually delay telling someone if they have been sexually abused because they are either afraid of a negative reaction from their parents or of being harmed by the abuser. The website indicated kids often “delay disclosure until adulthood.”
Magistrale said he thinks the restriction is unjust and wants to turn the tide on child abusers by removing the statute of limitations through the Child Victims Act. The bill would eliminate both criminal and civil statutes of limitation for child sexual abuse, and provide a one-time, one-year window in the statute of limitations to enable victims whose claim was time-barred by the current arbitrary limitations to revive their claim.
A similar version of this bill failed to make it past the state Senate floor during the legislative session this past June.
“A kid takes on average 21 years to come forward [to admit they were abused],” Magistrale said at the rally. “The average age that a child is raped is 8 or 9. By the time they build the courage and get over their psychological scars, time is up. We have to pass the Child Victims Act to do two things: Lift the statute of limitations completely, and then give a one-year look back window for people who were abused and unable to come forward in the past to point out who did it to them so we get them [the predators] off the street as well.”
Several victims of child abuse spoke at the rally, as well as members of anti-child abuse organizations. They told their stories of the abuse and their subsequent frustration with the restrictive statute.
Among the speakers was Melanie Blow, COO of the Stop Abuse Campaign.
“It’s simply ridiculous it’s taken us 10 years to pass the most significant bill to prevent child abuse,” Blow said. “But we’ve got survivors coming together right now to get the word out, to tell parents that this is an issue, and this piece of legislation will help.”
John De Vito, Democratic candidate for the state Senate’s 3rd district, also spoke at the rally.
“So many people here who are victims of sexual violence might never have a day in court to seek justice,” De Vito said. “But if we pass the Child Victims Act, our children will be awarded that opportunity going forward.”
During an interview at TBR News Media’s office in East Setauket, state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) said he agreed with Magistrale, who he is running against for re-election in the 2nd District, that this is an important issue but he does not support the legislation.
“There are significant protections in the law right now,” he said. “This is a one-year opener that could bring cases going back 40, 50, 60 years. We have statute of limitations for very cogent reasons and no matter how emotional a subject may be, witness availability, evidence, all those things have a salutary effect in terms of what happens.”