By the Rev. Michael LaMarca
Wednesday was the day that victims of child sexual abuse have been waiting a long time for.
The Child Victims Act went into effect in New York State. The CVA allows victims of child sexual abuse to come forward for a period of one year to bring civil suit against their abuser and anyone who may have been responsible in failing to prevent the abuse from occurring.
While commercials on television and radio from lawyers primarily focus on those abused by priests, the CVA opens the window for all victims. Whether someone was abused by a clergy member of any religion, teacher, coach, scout leader, youth leader, doctor, police officer, family member or friend, the CVA allows all victims to come forward and take that important step, the most important one, having their stories heard.
This week will not be the end; for the next year suits will be filed, and the courts will be overwhelmed as a result of all the cases. This will happen because society failed.
The Catholic Church certainly failed to handle appropriately the accusations of abuse, but not just the church because child sexual abuse has occurred in all areas of our society. Institutions both private and public, as well as families of perpetrators, all failed to protect the victims when they needed to be protected and now is their time to stand up and let their voices be heard.
When the CVA was first being discussed in New York it only applied to victims of abuse within private institutions but the New York State Conference of Catholic Bishops along with others pushed for the law to apply to both public and private institutions. That’s how it needs to be for true justice.
It needs to be stated again that there is no monetary reward that will come out of these cases that will possibly heal any of the damage done to the victims. While the lawyers advertise and say they are advocates for victims, and reporters are looking to tell their stories, the CVA is not about them, it is about the victims.
Victims need to know that whether the abuse happened at the hands of the parish priest or the high school coach, there are many people that are here for them, people you won’t see in television advertising.
Whether you were abused as a child or young adult, no matter where or how you became a victim, this is your time.
The CVA is about the victims and nobody else, not the perpetrators, public institutions, private institutions, reporters or the lawyers.
It is a shame that victims only have a one-year window, but the CVA is a start for those who lost their innocence and fell victim to society’s failings.
The Rev. Michael LaMarca is the pastor at St. Michael Catholic Church in Warsaw.