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Advocates demand Child Victims Act after Pennsylvania church report

Posted: Aug 16, 2018 3:03 PM EDTUpdated: Aug 16, 2018 5:26 PM EDT


Victims of child sex abuse are renewing their calls for lawmakers to pass the Child Victims Act, which would give survivors of childhood abuse more time to press criminal charges.

"There's no pill to erase those memories," says Harold Siering, a Massapequa Park man who says he still has flashbacks to the abuse he suffered between the ages of 10 and 17.

He came forward when he was 42. Because of that, he had no legal recourse against his abusers.

"I didn't get my day of justice," Siering says.

Activists and survivors like Siering rallied outside the Nassau Legislative Building in Mineola Thursday, a day after a bombshell sex abuse report from Pennsylvania's attorney general. It rocked the Roman Catholic Church and named 300 abusers. A Long Island bishop was also named as part of the alleged cover-up.

Because many of the priests' crimes happened decades ago, they fall outside of the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution. The Child Victims Act would raise the maximum age for victims from 23 to 28. It would also give victims until the age of 50 to pursue civil lawsuits.

Democrats control the state Assembly, which has already passed the bill. But the Republican-controlled state Senate has not yet brought it up for a vote. A key aspect of lawmakers' hesitation there is the so-called lookback provision — a one-year window in which all victims who previously could not take legal action would be allowed to do so.

The Catholic Church — and in particular New York Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan — has been speaking out against this provision. It would likely lead to a flurry of lawsuits against the church.

State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Republican, says lawmakers are fine tuning the bill behind the scenes. He says there are a number of options on the table that could raise the age from 23 to 28, 35, 40 or even 50.

But when it comes to Siering, he says it about more than politics and lobbying. It's about getting a chance at justice.

"I wanted that guy to go to jail, and I couldn't do anything about it," he says.

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