ALBANY — Some child sex assault survivors fear they’ve been strung along by Gov. Cuomo in their push to enact a law making it easier for victims to seek justice as adults.
Cuomo in January said passage of the Child Victims Act was a top priority this year.
But while his staff continues to meet with advocates behind closed doors, he has barely brought the issue up publicly since January nor has he introduced his own version of a bill that staffers told advocates for weeks was coming.
With just two weeks left in the legislative session time is running out.
“We saw in the marriage equality fight that the governor was able to bring Republican senators to the table and stand up to the Catholic Church, which also opposed that bill,” said Kat Sullivan, who was raped as a student in 1998 at Emma Willard, a private Albany-area girl’s school. “But with the (Child Victims Act) he thinks there’s no political cost to short-changing survivors by cynically claiming he ‘cares’ about the issue while failing to take any action.”
Gary Greenberg, an upstate investor and survivor, agreed.
He noted Cuomo in January listed the issue in his policybook for 2017 — but then never mentioned it during any of the six regional State of the State addresses he delivered.
After the state budget was adopted in April Cuomo told reporters his major priorities were addressed in the spending plan and he had no other big ones for the rest of the legislative session.
“If he was as serious as he said, he would be speaking out publicly on the issue — demanding a vote in the Senate,” Greenberg said. “He would come to events, stand with victims, survivors, advocates and support us. But it’s been silence.”
“His office continues to say a program bill is forthcoming, but it’s becoming a lost cause with him,” Greenberg added. “I don’t know what kind of an impact he can have now anyway to come out this late in the game.”
Not all advocates believe Cuomo is stringing them along.
Survivor Kathryn Robb, who has been meeting routinely with Cuomo administration officials, said she still thinks the governor is committed to the cause.
“I still believe that the governor will bring survivors to justice and will make a commitment to making the children of New York safer,” Robb said.
Andrew Willis of the Stop Abuse Campaign was torn on the governor’s efforts.
“He can only do what he can do and I think he’s right that there isn’t the muscle to put this through the Senate right now,” Willis said. “That being said, I do wish he would become more visible on this. I feel he kind of disappeared.”
Cuomo staffers say they continue to meet with advocates, the last meeting having been held on Thursday, to discuss strategy.
“These victims deserve justice and we have been actively working with advocates to build support for this in both houses of the Legislature,” said Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi. “All options remain on the table.”“
The Assembly last week for the first time since 2008 passed a version of the Child Victims Act. But insiders say it faces long odds the GOP-controlled Senate.
Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeffrey Klein has his own version of the bill. Unlike the legislation that passed the Assembly it does not include a one-year window to revive old cases, a provision many Republicans oppose.
In hopes of making the bill more palatable to the GOP, Klein would create a commission to determine whether old cases can proceed.
The Catholic Church opposes any legislation with a provision to revive time-barred cases, including Klein’s bill.
Assembly bill sponsor Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) noted the Child Victims Act passed the Assembly by a 139-7 margin with only five Republicans voting against it. The legislative session is scheduled to end June 21.
“The governor’s involvement in getting the Senate to pass a bill is more important now than ever with just a handful of days left,” Rosenthal said. “As I’ve said before, when he wants to get something done, he gets it done — and that’s what I’m looking for.”