By Lauren Book
New York is known around the country for being a forward-thinking state that leads the country on social issues and is committed to social justice. That’s why it’s especially shocking that in New York, child sexual abuse victims face some of the strictest statutes of limitation in the country.
As one of the 42 million survivors of child sexual abuse living in America, and a fellow lawmaker from Florida, I am calling on the New York Senate and Assembly to stand with sexual abuse survivors by committing to statute of limitation reform this upcoming legislative session.
In 2017, I joined New York advocates to launch a campaign in Albany asking legislators to walk in our shoes. According to Safe Horizon, every year, about 40,000 New York children experience the horrors of sexual abuse, and the resulting shame, guilt and fear known to survivors. Currently, New York law bars legal claims for sexual abuse from those older than 23, leaving many survivors suffering without hope of seeing justice. This is unacceptable when you consider that many child victims do not disclose or even begin to process their abuse until late adulthood.
Opponents argue that statutes of limitation are needed because victims’ memories may weaken or alter over time. Take it from me: Those memories will never fade, and the burden of proof still hangs heavy.
I was physically and sexually abused for nearly six years by a trusted caretaker, from the ages of 11 through 16. Almost two decades later, and despite every effort to forget, the abuse I endured remains a vivid, crystal-clear part of my memory. In my case, justice was served. I know that I am safe, and that my abuser is unable to hurt anyone else. It saddens me to know that many survivors will never get that chance.
As a Florida state senator, as well as the founder and CEO of Lauren’s Kids, a foundation dedicated to preventing child sexual abuse through awareness and education, I’ve worked for years to strengthen Florida laws to better protect children. In 2014, prior to being an elected official and in my role as a child advocate, I helped lead the charge for successful repeal of the statute of limitations for civil and criminal cases involving a minor under the age of 16. Many states around the country have enacted similar laws, but sadly others – like New York – lag behind.
Abusers strip victims of their voice, but lawmakers shouldn’t do the same. For more than a decade New Yorkers have been debating the statute of limitations. What’s taking so long? When it comes to the protection of children, the choice is clear: you either support victims or pedophiles. There is no in-between.
State Sen. Lauren Book of Florida is the founder and CEO of Lauren’s Kids, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to preventing child sexual abuse through education and awareness.