As child sex abuse survivors watched the state Legislature pass the Child Victims Act, there were more survivors present: A handful of New York lawmakers, some of whom revealed for the first time that they were sexually abused as children.
The legislators' accounts were the most emotional moments during the floor debates Monday. Before the state Senate passed the Child Victims Act by a 63-0 vote, state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi told her colleagues that she is a sexual abuse survivor. She explained that some victims feel shame after they are abused. That shame, she continued, often turns into silence.
After more than a decade of trying, New York legislators on Monday finally passed the Child …
"For me, that silence lasted for over 25 years," Biaggi, D-Bronx, said.
Biaggi wasn't alone. In the state Assembly, three lawmakers said they were child sex abuse survivors.
Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, a Manhattan Democrat, was 13 when she abused by a teacher. she acknowledged that it's difficult to talk about the incident and she fought back tears as she shared a vivid detail about her abuser.
"I can still smell him," Niou said.
After Niou told her story and announced she would vote for the bill, she received a standing ovation from her Assembly colleagues and others in the chamber.
Joining Niou in revealing they were sexually abused as children were Assemblywomen Rodneyse Bichotte and Catalina Cruz. Bichotte, D-Brooklyn, said she was 10 when she was sexually abused by a pastor.
"I was vulnerable, I felt ugly and I was taken advantage of as a result," Bichotte said.
Cruz, a Queens Democrat, said she was sexually abused by a family member. Like Niou, she was emotional as she revealed that she is a sexual abuse survivor.
For Cruz, her experience is one reason why she supported the Child Victims Act.
"This is about the safety of little boys and little girls everywhere," she said.
The Child Victims Act received wide bipartisan support in the state Legislature. After the unanimous vote in the state Senate, the bill passed the state Assembly by a 130-3 margin.
The legislation gives child sex abuse survivors until age 28 to press felony charges against the perpetrators and age 25 for misdemeanor charges. For civil cases, the victim would have until age 55 to file a lawsuit against their abuser.
Another key provision is the one-year "look-back," which gives past child sex abuse survivors a window to pursue civil suits against perpetrators.
The bipartisan support for the Child Victims Act capped off an effort that lasted more than a decade. The state Assembly has passed the bill multiple times, but the state Senate never voted on the measure. When Republicans controlled the state Senate, they blocked the bill due to concerns with the look-back provision.
With a Democratic majority in the state Senate, the Child Victims Act was one of the party's top legislative priorities. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he will sign the bill into law.