It was huge. The NY Senate last week unanimously passed the Adult Survivors Act (ASA), a bill that would give NY victims of sexual assault, age 18 and older, a year-long window to bring or renew civil lawsuits against predators and negligent institutions of the past—no matter how many years ago the abuse happened. Yes, there would be money.
Also huge: The bill was stalled in the Assembly (referred to as the Legislature’s “lower house”), whose session just ended.
Usually when a vote is unanimous in one house, it sails through in the other. Not so with the Adult Survivors Act. Advocates anticipated that if the measure could only make it to the Assembly floor, it would pass with overwhelming support based on bipartisan votes in the Senate. It didn’t make it.
Pundits say the bill had no opposition in the Assembly. Yet it wasn’t brought for a vote. Hmm. Specifically the Adult Survivors Act snagged in the lower house’s Judiciary Committee chaired by Charles Lavine, the same chairman currently leading the Assembly’s impeachment inquiry into Governor Andrew Cuomo’s alleged sexual and other misconduct. Hold on a sec. We’re not accusing anyone.
But why the holdup? The question is compelling: Assembly passage could implicate some legislators themselves, institutions like itselfand the governor’s office. One view says the bill might have nothing to do with Mr. Cuomo, but it would be “super awkward” timing and perhaps offend him.
“We are alarmed,” wrote a relevant organization called the Sexual Harassment Working Group, made up of former legislative staffers sexually harassed or assaulted on the job. “We are very familiar with the patterns of this chamber to block, delay and run out the clock on survivors and the legislation that would protect them as a means of providing cover for serial abusers,” it wrote last week.
The Group also accused Charles Lavine of slow-walking ASA to shield Cuomo.
Twenty years ago sexual misconduct—dirty talk to rape—was behavior young legislative staffers were encouraged to avoid by actually avoiding certain people with naughty reputations. Naughty. Perhaps it’s better now. Perhaps not.
“We remind the Assembly,” said the Working Group: “It is your responsibility to pass laws for the good of New Yorkers. You have a duty to the public; the Assembly does not exist merely to protect itself and serve its own members.”
Elizabeth Crothers, a member of the Working Group, was raped in 2001 by J. Michael Boxley, chief counsel to corrupt former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (now in prison for fraud). Boxley claimed innocence, so Elizabeth went up the ladder to Silver, who soon publicly backed Boxley’s integrity before the sham investigation was seriously underway. Police did not encourage her prospects.
Two years later Boxley was led out of the chamber in handcuffs, arrested for raping another staffer. Meantime Crothers became a ghost at work, shut out of courts between her rape and Boxley’s arrest by a short statute of limitations.
Since #MeToo, opening up about sexual assault trauma is more common, but no less excruciating for victims. Two kinds of pain persist: one from remembering the experience in the first place (which often takes years) and another from reliving it in public (perhaps multiple times) hoping to be heard and/or win justice. For 1,000 reasons it is difficult for a person to process or prosecute trauma, especially within a time constraint.
Sometimes, time is up before a victim is ready. ASA would rectify that.
And perhaps a third kind of pain grows out of justice being reversed—misjustice—weighing more against the abused and in favor of the abuser. ASA would help end this reverse bias. But first it must pass both houses.
Crothers says the Assembly’s holdup on ASA is an example of one institution protecting another. “But there comes a point where an institution is not worth protecting,” she says. The Adult Survivors Act would give her a final shot at the NY State Assembly for ignoring her charges a long, long time ago, and maybe provide her with a little money for her trouble.
VOTE – no matter what state you live in, your rights are affected by the SOL (statute of limitations) in your state. Generally speaking, conservatives back shorter SOL periods because (again, generally) conservatives side with corporations rather than individuals.
GET ACTIVE – America Loves Kids https://www.americaloveskids.org is an organization working across the country to make it possible for children who have been abused to seek justice. This non-profit, headed by competitive speed skater and abuse survivor Bridie Farrell, needs your donations and help.
SPEAK UP – If you have been abused, let us know. We offer confidential services and do our best to make your voice heard.
 18 years or older at the time of the incident