Statute of limitations on child abuse cases should be longer

Far too often, newspapers have to publish a police or court report involving someone who has sexually violated another person. The hardest stories to read are when the victim is a child.

Even scarier is the unknown but certainly vast number of abusers who are not arrested, who quietly get away with it — at least for the time being.

New York state has tough sentences for those who sexually abuse children, but clearly these penalties are not enough to deter some. We know that sometimes it can take years for young victims to process what happened to them. Under current law, the statute of limitations begins when the victim turns 18.

Under the Child Victims Act, approved in the state Assembly, in cases involving a felony sex crime against a minor that have a statute of limitations for criminal prosecution, the limitations period would have begun when the victim turned 23, years of age while the statute of limitations for civil cases would be extended until the victim turns 50. Both of our local Assemblymen — Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, and Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay — voted in favor of the change, but a companion bill didn’t make it out of the state Senate’s Rules Committee.

Those who opposed it mostly did so quietly, without explaining why. Only two groups filed written objections. The New York Catholic Conference, led by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York City, said the bill offered too small a window for victims to file claims. New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, an evangelical Christian advocacy organization opposed the bill “because it contains ‘lookback’ provisions that could subject churches and nonprofit organizations to liability for decades-old claims based upon the alleged misdeeds of their agents or employees.”

The Daily News of New York reported that the Boy Scouts of America and Agudath Israel, an Orthodox Jewish organization, quietly lobbied to kill the bill but made no public statements.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan had the final say, telling reporters only that “the Senate is not going to be taking that bill up.”

If there is a good reason why senators chose not to take action, we’d like to hear it from them. Either way, we expect them to give the Child Victims Act a fair airing on the floor when they convene their next session.

Victims of child abuse deserve to have a real debate on this issue.