New York passes Child Victims Act, allowing child sex abuse survivors to sue their abusers, Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination and the moral context of trauma science

January 30, 2019 § Leave a comment

New York passes Child Victims Act, allowing child sex abuse survivors to sue their abusers

By Augusta Anthony, CNN Mon January 28, 2019

New York (CNN)The New York State Legislature passed a bill on Monday that will increase the statute of limitations for cases of child sexual abuse.

The Child Victims Act will allow child victims to seek prosecution against their abuser until the age of 55 in civil cases, a significant increase from the previous limit of age 23. For criminal cases, victims can seek prosecution until they turn 28. The bill also includes a one-year window during which victims of any age or time limit can come forward to prosecute.

“New York has just gone from being one of the worst states in the country to being one of the best,” in terms of the statute of limitations for child sex abuse cases, said Marci Hamilton, CEO of Child USA and a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Hamilton said the bill “represents over 15 years of work by survivors and advocates trying to get around the stiff opposition from the Catholic bishops and the insurance industry” and is a step forward in the national conversation. There are eight other states considering similar legislation….

Catholic Church opposition

Monday’s bill passage comes after more than a decade of opposition from the Catholic Church in New York. In a news conference on Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is a Roman Catholic, blamed the church directly for preventing the bill’s passage.

Speaking about why the bill took years to pass, Cuomo said, “I believe it was the conservatives in the Senate who were threatened by the Catholic Church.” The bill passed the Senate unanimously on Monday. In November 2018, Democrats took over the Republican-held Senate….

https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/28/us/new-york-child-victims-act/index.html

Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination and the moral context of trauma science
Michael Salter Published online: 24 Jan 2019

Download citation https://doi.org/10.1080/15299732.2019.1571858

The fraught process surrounding the recent nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court was a spectacular deployment of institutional power to suppress good faith allegations of sexual violence. Trauma survivors and their allies have been shaken by the public scorn and victim-blaming that occurred when a childhood acquaintance of Kavanaugh’s, Christine Blasey Ford, alleged she had been sexually assaulted by him while they were at high school. Kavanaugh denied the allegation and US President Donald Trump firmly supported him. The matter only became more heated when, after Ford agreed to testify publicly to the Senate Judiciary Committee, two other women come forward with allegations of sexual assault and improper conduct by Kavanaugh.

The response of Kavanaugh and his supporters was replete with the rhetoric of denial. Kavanaugh variously characterized the allegations as part of a “coordinated effort” and “conspiracy” to destroy his reputation and prevent his nomination. President Trump agreed that the three women describing abuse by Kavanaugh were politically motivated. He went on to suggest that one woman “has nothing” on Kavanaugh because she “admits she was drunk” at the time of the alleged assault. Conservative media commentators speculated that Ford was suffering from “false memories” of rape, or had mistaken her actual attacker for Kavanaugh. Such language, reverberating from the White House and its spokespeople and advocates, represents a sustained campaign of institutional betrayal that only compounds the trauma of sexual assault (Smith & Freyd, 2013 Smith, C. P., & Freyd, J. J. (2013). Dangerous safe havens: Institutional betrayal exacerbates sexual trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 26(1), 119–124. doi:10.1002/jts.21778[Crossref], [PubMed], [Web of Science ®], , [Google Scholar]), consonant with other policy positions that have profoundly traumatised the vulnerable (Smidt & Freyd, 2018 Smidt, A. M., & Freyd, J. J. (2018). Government-mandated institutional betrayal. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 26(5), 491–499.[Taylor & Francis Online], , [Google Scholar]).

The proposition that allegations of sexual violence are motivated by animus or the product of confabulation or “false memories” has a long and shameful history (Campbell, 2003 Campbell, S. (2003). Relational remembering: Rethinking the memory wars. Oxford, UK: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc. [Google Scholar]). Movements against sexual assault and child abuse have routinely been accused of hiding an ideological agenda, or creating the conditions for false allegations by confused women and children. The conflicts surrounding Kavanaugh’s appointment have highlighted the persistence of a culture of disbelief.

However, it is notable that the attempts by Kavanaugh’s supporters to invoke pseudo-scientific explanations for Ford’s allegation found considerably less purchase in the mass media than they might have in the past. Questions about the integrity of Ford’s memory were largely limited to right wing and conservative media, and were rejected in statements from the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation and the American Psychological Association. Progress against the institutionalized mechanics of denial and unaccountability is substantive although clearly incomplete (Brand & McEwen, 2016 Brand, B. L., & McEwen, L. (2016). Ethical standards, truths, and lies. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 17(3), 259–266. doi:10.1080/15299732.2016.1114357[Taylor & Francis Online], [Web of Science ®], , [Google Scholar])….

While I hesitate to argue that we can read life lessons directly from research findings, it does appear to me that the overall direction of trauma research and treatment trends in a particular moral direction. If we seek to find opportunities for trauma survivors to recover and live well, and if we want to promote the conditions in which people are not traumatised in the first place, then we are necessarily advancing moral propositions about human happiness and flourishing. Research on trauma, recovery and psychological wellbeing consistently finds that human beings thrive when we are embedded in emotionally rich, mutual and equitable relationships. This conclusion furnishes us with a powerful and, I think, very appealing image of a good life – one characterized by dignity, equality, accountability, and shared recognition – that the trauma field should not hesitate in articulating clearly. Political theorist Alford (2016 Alford, C. F. (2016). Trauma, culture, and PTSD. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.[Crossref], , [Google Scholar]) suggests that a key reason for the expanding public interest in trauma science is precisely because the concept of ‘trauma’ provides a rare acknowledgement of human relationality and vulnerability in a culture that is exhaustively individualistic and atomizing.

When a person like Christine Blasey Ford stands up to testify to a traumatic event, in opposition to incredibly powerful forces, we can recognize this as a courageous step in the fulfillment of a moral vision that we also have a stake in. The visceral and hate-filled response that has driven her, and her family, from their home is stark evidence of the cost paid by people who challenge the structures of traumatisation. Such costs have, of course, been visited in the past on trauma therapists and researchers whose ethical and scientific convictions have also bought them into conflict with vested interests. However the tremendous support that rallied around Christine Blasey Ford, and that recognised and celebrated her bravery in stepping forward with her story, indicates a growing consensus that opposes traumatizing social formations and seeks an alternative. Trauma research and theory, I would argue, is well placed to elaborate on what those alternatives might be.

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15299732.2019.1571858

New York May Ease Statute of Limitations for Decades-Old Child Sex Abuse Claims, Sixth Circuit Rejects Commonsense Approach to Child Pornography Restitution

March 9, 2013 Comments Off on New York May Ease Statute of Limitations for Decades-Old Child Sex Abuse Claims, Sixth Circuit Rejects Commonsense Approach to Child Pornography Restitution

New York May Ease Statute of Limitations for Decades-Old Child Sex Abuse Claims

Bill Would Ease Path to Court for Yeshiva U. Victims
By Paul Berger Published March 07, 2013, issue of March 15, 2013.

Adults abused as children decades ago in New York could file civil lawsuits against their abusers and the institutions that employed them, if a national surge of legislative reform reaches Albany.

Advocates for child sex abuse victims say that this year, the prospects look good for a bill that sank four times previously following strong opposition from Catholic and ultra-Orthodox groups. If passed, the legislation could ease the way for a slew of lawsuits against Jewish and Catholic institutions accused of failing to report accounts of child sex abuse to law enforcement authorities.

“I’ve never been more optimistic we can succeed in 2013,” the bill’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, said.

Yeshiva University may also be casting a wary eye toward Albany as it continues to investigate a scandal involving abuse allegations first reported by the Forward and dating back four decades.

Read the Forward’s COMPLETE COVERAGE of the allegations of abuse against staffers at Yeshiva U. high school.

The bill, known as the Child Victims Act, still faces a real test in the state senate where a key Democrat, Jeffrey Klein, indicated he would not support it….
http://forward.com/articles/172412/new-york-may-ease-statute-of-limitations-for-decad/

Sixth Circuit Rejects Commonsense Approach to Child Pornography Restitution
By James R. Marsh on March 8, 2013

Last week, the Sixth Circuit issued this confusing decision on child pornography restitution.

The Court held that the child pornography restitution statute contains both a cause-in-fact requirement—i.e., a showing that the defendant’s conduct actually caused the victim’s losses—and a requirement that the cause be proximate.

The Court found that “the statute still allows victims to collect more restitution than under earlier and concurrent restitution statutes. The statute expands the definition of victims and the categories of losses for which victims can receive restitution and makes restitution mandatory. In addition, the list of recoverable losses that the statute provides confirms the breadth of what is a foreseeable consequence of defendants’ actions.”

The Court concluded that “a proximate cause showing is necessary for restitution awards under § 2259, meaning the losses must be both “directly attributable” to the defendant’s offense, and “reasonably foreseeable.”….
http://www.childlaw.us/2013/03/sixth-circuit-rejects-commonse.html

A Troubled Silence, Jury breaks without verdict in Philadelphia church abuse case

June 8, 2012 Comments Off on A Troubled Silence, Jury breaks without verdict in Philadelphia church abuse case

Op-Ed Contributor – A Troubled Silence
By RICHARD B. GARTNER June 7, 2012

THE revelation this week of alleged widespread child abuse at the elite Horace Mann School in New York City, most of it occurring during the 1970s and ’80s, is only the most recent instance of men coming forward, many years after the fact, with horrific stories of sexual molesting from their childhood.

Most of those accused of the abuse in the Horace Mann case are dead, but under New York State law, if alive they would most likely be safe from justice. The state’s statute of limitations on child abuse is five years from the victim’s 18th birthday. After age 23, the victim has no recourse.

Yet young adults, particularly men, who suffer the aftereffects of abuse are rarely in an emotional state to bring charges. Given what we now know about why it takes victims so long to come forward, the law needs to be changed.

Many people cast a skeptical eye on those who wait so long to reveal instances of child abuse, particularly when it happened to them as teenagers. They assume that accusers are making it up, blaming what were at most minor incidents for their troubles.

But in my decades of experience working with abuse victims, I have found that men spend years putting their emotions in a deep freeze or masking post-traumatic reactions with self-defeating behaviors like compulsive gambling and substance abuse. Eventually, they are forced by internal or external events to find treatment….

Finally, since boyhood abuse was not part of the public conversation until recently, many boys and men assumed their experiences were repulsive and aberrant. And a man who has not talked about it might feel it would be humiliating to first disclose it in middle age or later. Needless to say, the decades spent trying to bury the memories rarely work….

Things may be changing, thanks, in part, to the recent spate of abuse revelations. Many older victims have gained the courage to come forward. In my own practice, I received almost as many calls from sexually abused men in December and January, soon after allegations surfaced about abuse by the former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, as I usually get in a year. With Mr. Sandusky’s trial set to begin next week, I expect to get even more calls.

But more needs to be done. Every year since 2005, Margaret M. Markey, a New York State assemblywoman, has introduced a bill to extend the statute of limitations for five more years, a modest increase; it would also create a one-year window for adults up to age 53 to bring charges against alleged abusers. The bill has passed the Assembly four times but has consistently been blocked from coming to the floor of the Senate, largely thanks to fierce lobbying by the Roman Catholic Church….

Richard B. Gartner is a psychologist and psychoanalyst and the author of “Beyond Betrayal: Taking Charge of Your Life After Boyhood Sexual Abuse.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/08/opinion/in-light-of-child-abuse.html

Jury breaks without verdict in Philadelphia church abuse case
June 7, 2012 PHILADELPHIA (Reuters)

A Philadelphia jury ended its fifth day of deliberations on Thursday without reaching a verdict in the child sex abuse trial of a Roman Catholic monsignor, the highest-ranking U.S. clergyman to stand trial in the church’s wide-ranging pedophilia scandal. Monsignor William Lynn, who supervised hundreds of priests in the Philadelphia Archdiocese for 12 years as secretary of the clergy, is accused of conspiracy and child endangerment. If convicted on all charges, he faces the possibility of 21 years in prison….

Prosecutors say Lynn, 61, covered up child sex abuse allegations, often by transferring priests to unsuspecting parishes.

Lynn’s motive was to avoid scandal and any potential loss of money for the church, they argued. His job was to supervise 800 priests, which included investigating sex abuse claims, from 1992 to 2004.

The defense said Lynn tried to handle documented cases of pedophile priests, making a list in 1994 of 35 accused predators and writing memos to suggest treatment and suspensions. He was hampered because he could only make recommendations to the head of the archdiocese, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, who died in January at age 88, the defense said….

The Philadelphia jury also is deliberating the fate of the Reverend James Brennan, 48, who is charged with child endangerment and the attempted rape of a 14-year-old child in 1996.
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-rt-us-usa-crime-churchbre8561g8-20120607,0,7146796.story

Syracuse Child Abuse Cases Spur Calls To Reform New York Statutes Of Limitations

December 15, 2011 Comments Off on Syracuse Child Abuse Cases Spur Calls To Reform New York Statutes Of Limitations

Subcommittee Hearing – Breaking the Silence on Child Abuse: Protection, Prevention, Intervention, and Deterrence
Committee: Subcommittee on Children and Families
Date:  Tuesday, December 13 2011, 10:15 AM
http://help.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=12f57f31-5056-9502-5d46-d6c877eaa515

Syracuse Child Abuse Cases Spur Calls To Reform New York Statutes Of Limitations  by John Rudolf 12/13/11
NEW YORK

On Dec. 7, William Fitzpatrick, district attorney for Onondaga County in upstate New York, said he found credible the allegations of two former Syracuse University basketball team ball boys that Bernie Fine, the team’s long-standing assistant coach, molested them in the 1980s.

“These two victims are believable,” Fitzpatrick said at a press conference.

But state prosecutors won’t be bringing any criminal charges against Fine for the alleged abuse, which the coach adamantly denies. The statute of limitations in both cases expired nearly two decades ago — just two years after his accusers, now in their late 30s, passed their 18th birthdays.

Fine can’t be sued either: under state law, the two men needed to file a civil suit against him before they turned 23.

“There is no remedy,” said Jeff Dion, director of the National Crime Victim Bar Association. “Because of New York law, a child molester is going to get off scot-free.”

Fine would not have fared nearly as well elsewhere in the country. In a growing number of states, legal reforms now allow victims of childhood sexual abuse to seek civil damages and criminal charges against their alleged abusers many years after reaching adulthood. The reforms are an acknowledgement of substantial research demonstrating that abuse victims often require an extensive period of time before they are ready to confront their abusers.

“People are so messed up that they don’t get the courage and the gumption to do anything until they’re in their 40s — if then,” said Thomas Neuberger, a Delaware attorney who has represented hundreds of victims of childhood abuse. “It takes a person decades before they get the courage to speak out.”….

In the last week, two lawmakers announced plans to introduce legislation extending the time period when victims of childhood abuse can seek criminal charges and civil restitution against their abusers. A previous bill to reform New York’s child abuse laws passed the Assembly three times, but was repeatedly stymied in the state Senate after heavy lobbying by Catholic bishops, who vigorously opposed a key provision to temporarily lift the civil statute of limitations for decades-old abuse.

Yet the intense publicity now surrounding the Syracuse and Penn State scandals may finally push the vote for a reform bill over the top in New York, according to Marci Hamilton, a law professor at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York and a long-time advocate for child sexual abuse victims.

“I do think in the next year or two or three, it’s going to be impossible for legislators to maintain statutes of limitations that favor predators,” Hamilton said. “The public outrage is building.”

The proposed reforms would bring New York closer in line with many other states, which afford child abuse victims special rights not given to other crime victims or civil plaintiffs.

Delaware has no criminal statute of limitations at all for any sex crime against a child. In Pennsylvania, victims have until their 50th birthday to seek criminal prosecution against an abuser. Six other states, including Connecticut, Louisiana and Missouri, allow criminal prosecutions of child sex abuse for at least 20 years after victims turn 18. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/13/syracuse-and-penn-state-child-sex-abuse-statute_n_1146138.html

Reforming the Statute of Limitations for Child Sex Abuse

June 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

Reforming the Statute of Limitations for Child Sex Abuse: New York’s Child Victims Act Shouldn’t Be Political, But It Is By MARCI A. HAMILTON June 10, 2010

Last week, the New York Child Victims Act (available at http://open.nysenate.gov/legislation/bill/S5893A ) was defeated in the Senate Codes Committee. For New York’s children, it was a choice that favors child predators, and therefore a bad day. However, it was an interesting session and the bill will be re-introduced next session — and every session until it is passed, according to sponsors Assemblywoman Marge Markey and Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson. The only impact is that child predators have one more year to operate under the anonymity afforded by New York’s extremely short statutes of limitations for child sex abuse….

Currently, New York has one of the stingiest statutes of limitations for child sex abuse in the entire country — 18 years-old for criminal charges and 23 for civil claims. In the future, it is inevitable that New York will radically expand these statutes of limitations for child sex abuse, because justice demands it, and because that is the trend in the entire country. Florida just eliminated all of its statutes of limitations for child sex abuse; Delaware did the same thing in 2007; Connecticut gives victims until age 48; Pennsylvania until age 53; New Jersey has a liberal discovery rule (which New York courts rejected, saying it was an issue for the legislature)….

Research establishes that one in four girls, and one in five boys, are sexually abused. Not only clergy child-sex-abuse victims, but incest victims too, are increasingly demanding their day in court, and the kind of statute-of-limitations reform that would make that possible.
http://writ.news.findlaw.com/hamilton/20100610.html

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