Child Victims Act
In June, 2016, the recently amended Child Victims Act or Bill A9877A failed to make it to the New York State Assembly floor for a vote. This Act seeks to eliminate the statute of limitations in criminal and civil actions for sexual offenses committed against a child under 18 years of age. (Statutes of Limitations are laws which specific how long, after certain actions take place, a case can be filed in criminal or civil based on those actions). While some sexual offenses committed against a child do not have a statute of limitations under the NYS Criminal Law, all acts of child sexual assault have a five-year Statute of Limitations under civil law. As a result, victims have only until their 23rd birthday to pursue a civil case against their abuser and prosecutors may only have 5 years to prosecute some child sexual abuse cases. By giving victims only 5 years to come forward, our law is effectively protecting offenders and disregarding the need for financial and emotional independence necessary to pursue a case of child sexual abuse. The bill proposed in the last legislative session would have eliminated the Statute of Limitations in criminal and civil actions, opened a one-year window to bring a case that has been precluded by the statute of limitations, and treated public and private entities equally when dealing with sexual assault cases. The Alliance Assault is part of a large coalition of groups that supports the reintroduction and passage of the Child Victims Act in the 2017 legislative session. The current statute of limitations, one of the shortest in the country, deprives victims of their right to pursue justice and enables perpetrators to continue committing sexual abuse with impunity.
Mandatory Anti-Violence Curriculum in the Schools
In recent years, New York State has seen several bills proposed that address educational programs to prevent dating abuse, sexual violence and encourage healthy relationships. However, none have included developmentally appropriate education for kindergarten through high school and none have detailed the scope of issues necessary to create a cultural shift around sexual violence and dating abuse. Bill S03909A, which requires dating violence education to be taught to students in grades 7-12 in the annual health curriculum framework, was not brought to a vote during the last legislative session. In 2013, the Center for Disease Control surveyed approximately 9,900 students in grades 9-12 from forty-two states who were dating within the last 12 months regarding whether they experienced physical and/or sexual abuse in that relationship. Of the forty-two states surveyed, New York State had the fourth highest incidence of dating abuse at 12.1% and the fourth highest rate of sexual dating violence overall. In the Alliance’s own study, Partners and Peers: Sexual and Dating Violence Among NYC Youth, interviews of 1,454 students found that 16% of students reported experiencing sexual violence in their lifetimes and 14% reported partner sexual violence. Research shows a strong correlation between dating abuse and health-risk behaviors such as poorer educational outcomes and unsafe sexual behaviors in young adults. Therefore, an investment in preventing dating abuse is an investment in preventing serious health-risk behaviors. The New York City Alliance against Sexual Assault is supporting legislation that would require age-appropriate, healthy relationship education into its annual curriculum for students in grades K-12.