The New York State Legislature voted to pass the Child Victims Act on Monday afternoon, over a decade after the first bill was introduced in the chamber. The bill was passed by a unanimous vote in the Senate and a 130-3 vote in the Assembly.
The legislation will permit victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue their abusers and responsible parties up to the age of 55; they will also now be allowed to bring criminal charges against a assailant until they turn 28 years old, a bump up from the previous limit of 23.
The vote was made possible after Democrats retook the Senate in the November midterm election. The previous Republican-led majority kept stalling and undercutting the bill’s passage. The bill passed the Assembly several times after its initial introduction in 2006, only to peter out in the Senate.
According to the New York Times, the bill was opposed by a long list of dubious-to-terrible groups, such as “insurance companies, private schools and religious leaders from the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish communities,” in the preceding years. This led to New York having some of the most outdated child sex abuse restrictions in the nation. Though the state’s Catholic Center poured $1.8 million into fighting the bill since 2012, the Catholic Church ultimately supported the bill once it was clear other institutions, such as public schools, and organizations like the Boy Scouts would also fall under its purview.
During Monday’s round of voting and explanations, Sen. Alessandra Biaggi issued her support of the bill, saying that as a sexual assault survivor, having more legislative action on the matter was highly important to her both personally and professionally. Sen. Brad Hoylman, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, also offered a critical question to his fellow senators: “I have to ask, what took you so long?” Concluding the speeches, Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins apologized to survivors on behalf of the Senate, “for making you wait so long” before providing the final “aye” vote of the day.