A call for the state Legislature to pass stalled Child Victims Act.
SLEEPY HOLLOW – Gary Greenberg said the man who sexually abused him told him they were going on a tour.
His attacker was an orderly at a hospital where Greenberg’s father had surgery, he said. Greenberg, now 60, was a kid.
“It wasn’t a tour, it was a half hour of hell,” he told reporters at a news conference at Village Hall Tuesday. “Being hung over an elevator shaft, with my head down and my ankles bound, seeing a dark elevator shaft as a 7-year-old kid – no kid should go through that.”
Greenberg, founder of the Fighting For Children PAC, joined state Democratic Party candidates at the conference to call to extend the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse crimes in New York State.
State Senate candidate Pete Harckham, state Assemblyman Tom Abinanti and attorney general candidate Tish James bashed Senate Republicans, saying they’d blocked passage of a bill called the Child Victims Act.
The proposed law would increase the maximum age for a victim to file suit from 23 to 28, and to 50 for civil suits. The law would come with a one-year “look back” period when people of any age could come forward with a suit.
Several versions of the act have passed the Democrat-controlled state Assembly in recent years, but stalled in the state Senate, which has been run by Republicans and a now-defunct faction of breakaway Democrats called the Independent Democratic Conference.
James, who’s running against Republican Keith Wofford in the November election, said many sex-abuse survivors take years to reach a point where they are able to come forward with their claims.
“Our laws shift the burden, they put the burden on the survivor and it acts as a shield for abusers,” said James, who is the New York City public advocate. “The statute of limitations are just too narrow and they quite literally help abusers stay on the street and abuse additional children.”
Harckham pledged the act would become law within the first 30 days if Democrats take the Senate this election. He said the law would allow institutions that were aware of abuse but didn’t take action to bring offenders to justice would face financial penalties.
Advocates for the law said institutions such as the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts should be held to task if they didn’t properly investigate or covered up child abuse allegations.
“This is not about protecting their bank accounts, this is giving voice to victims, this is about protecting victims,” he said. “And you know what? Shame on them, shame on them if they take a major hit in the pocketbook because only that is going to dissuade them and other organizations from perpetrating these offenses again.”
Harckham, a former county legislator, is running against state Sen. Terrence Murphy for the Senate’s 40th District, which includes parts of northern Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties.
Murphy said he co-authored what he called a compromise bill supported by Greenberg that would end the statute for criminal prosecutions and set up a state fund for victims. Murphy was behind legislation that blocked abusers from living within 1,500 feet of their victims.
“My heart breaks for Mr. Greenberg and all victims of abuse,” he said. “But we can’t have short memories. When the Democrats controlled the chamber the CVA bill didn’t see the light of day. Let’s stop playing politics with kids and get to a solution which we thought we had with the help of Mr. Greenberg.”
There has been a renewed focus on child sexual abuse cases after a Pennsylvania grand jury report this summer, which described allegations against more than 300 Catholic priests who had abused more than 1,000 minors over seven decades.
In New York, state Attorney General Barbara Underwood has subpoenaed all eight of New York’s Catholic dioceses as part of a major investigation into the handling of sex abuse. Her office has also created an online complaint center and a telephone hotline for victims and witnesses to come forward.
Election Day is Nov. 6.