They want their voices heard.
State Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) and his fellow Senate Republicans must pass the more-than-decade-old Child Victims Act extending the statute of limitations to allow survivors of child sex abuse to come forward with their claims as adults, demanded protesters and sex-assaults survivors at a press conference organized by Golden’s Democratic opponent, Andrew Gounardes, outside the incumbent’s Fifth Avenue district office an Oct. 9.
Gounardes said that adult survivors of childhood sexual assault have a right to seek justice — especially now, with the #MeToo movement and following Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual assault against newly named Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
“It is more important than ever that we believe survivors, we hear their stories, and that we give them every opportunity under the law to seek justice,” Gounardes said.
The state Assembly has passed the bill every year since 2006, while the Republican-controlled Senate has refused even to bring the bill to a vote.
Current law prevents sex-abuse survivors from pursuing civil cases after they turn 23, and accusers in cases against public institutions have just 90 days to file a lawsuit. The Child Victims Act would extend the statute of limitations to age 50 in civil cases, and age 28 in criminal cases. New York is one of only four states — along with Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi — with statutes of limitation that restrict child-sex-abuse survivors from pursuing legal action.
At least one in five girls and one in twenty boys is a victim of childhood sexual abuse, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime, and less than 40 percent of children reveal sexual abuse to someone else — with nearly 40 percent of those disclosures revealed only to the children’s friends, meaning that most assaults go unreported to the authorities, according to Darkness to Light, an organization that works to prevent child sexual abuse.
A Quinnipiac poll from earlier this year shows that New York state voters overwhelmingly support passing the Child Victims Act by 90 percent, with only 6 percent opposed.
But Golden said that he didn’t see an “impetus” to pass the bill in 2016, and recently threw his support behind a bill introduced by state Sen. Catharine Young (R–Upstate) that would create a Child Victims Fund using public funds to compensate victims seeking financial settlements.
But a Bensonhurst resident who spoke out at the press conference for the first time in public about a sexual assault she said she experienced 37 years ago said that publicly funded payouts would not give survivors the justice they deserve.
“[Golden] believes the Child Victims Fund is enough, and it’s not. They want justice,” said Toni Franco. “I wouldn’t have wanted any [money]. The kids need to be heard. Their assaulters need justice.”
Franco, a registered Republican, added that she has consistently voted for Golden for 31 years, but said she would be voting for Gounardes in the Nov. 6 general election, in part due to Golden’s lack of support for the Child Victims Act.
“I was a registered Republican for many years, and I always supported Marty Golden. I cannot support him anymore in good conscience,” Franco said. “He is putting the assaulters’ interests in front of the children’s interests.”
Another local at the press conference, Karen Tadross, has ties to both candidates: she lives across the street from Golden, and founded Bay Ridge Cares with Gounardes in 2012. Tadross said that her connections to both candidates made her feel uncomfortable protesting Golden, but she said she felt she had to be there on behalf of a family member who experienced childhood sexual assault, adding that she wanted the pol to do more than stroll the neighborhood and shake hands at events he sponsors.
“Marty Golden lives across the street from me. We’re neighbors. And standing here outside of his office is extremely difficult. But I am past the point of keeping quiet for the sake of getting along,” she said. “I am past the point of being impressed with summer concerts and parades. Any senator can do any of those things. There’s been twelve years of inaction from our state Senate, and guess who has been there for all twelve years? Marty Golden.”
Golden declined to comment through a spokesman.