Wednesday, February 26, 2020
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Child Victims Act dies, once again, in N.Y.

Inspired by the Oscar-nominated movie, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, one woman in New York, who was sexually abused by a teacher in the 1990s at the Emma Willard School in Troy, purchased three billboards in three different states to call attention to a New York law that protects sexual predators more than children, the New York Times reports.

A plea for state lawmakers to take action (her website)

Although many New York residents are actually in favor of changing the law, with attempts to do so having been made for at least the last 10 years, the bill has once again died in the state senate, the local NBC News affiliate reported. The bill, known as the Child Victims Act, would have given child sex abuse victims more time to file criminal charges and civil lawsuits by a wide margin: 28 years old for pressing criminal charges, 50 years old to sue.

Under current New York law, survivors of child sex abuse only have until they’re about 23 years old to file criminal charges, a statute of limitations that is far more restrictive than much of the nation. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, child sex abuse victims in Maryland have until seven years after the victim attains the age of majority, or about age 25, to file a criminal complaint against their abuser. In Illinois, the law was amended in 2003 to provide that “an action for damages for personal injury based on childhood sexual abuse must be commenced within 10 years of the date the victim discovers that the act of childhood sexual abuse occurred and that the injury was caused by the childhood sexual abuse.”

Though the name of Kat Sullivan’s abuser has been redacted from her website, on the advice of attorneys at the ad agency she used for the three billboards, the Times reported that one Scott Sargent was fired by the Emma Willard School for sexually abusing a student, and that Ms Sullivan says that student was her. Even after that incident, however, Mr Sargent was allowed to teach at other schools, given letters of recommendation from Emma Willard.

The digital billboards have been put up near New York’s capital of Albany, which is also near Emma Willard; near another school at which her abuser had taught, in Connecticut; and near Interstate-90 in Springfield, Massachusetts, the current home of her abuser.

She has no legal recourse, because the abuse happened more than 20 years ago, but she says on her website that she had the luxury of not signing a nondisclosure agreement, which could have barred her from talking about the abuse for life in exchange for a cash settlement. “No more private settlements with accompanying nondisclosure agreements,” she calls for. “Society needs to see where the dangers lurk in wait for the next child, and we need to know they can no longer harm anyone else. We need to know because we need to prevent more sexual assaults.”

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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