Child Victims Act

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, center, winks and gives a thumbs-up after signing the Child Victims Act in New York Thursday. Cuomo has signed into law long-sought legislation that extends the statute of limitations so sexual abuse victims can have more time to seek criminal charges or file lawsuits. 

For more than a decade, survivors urged New York lawmakers to extend the statute of limitations for civil and criminal child sex abuse cases. On Thursday, they achieved their goal. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Child Victims Act into law. The measure increases the statute of limitations for felony child sex abuse crimes. Victims will now have until age 28 to press charges against their abuser. 

The Child Victims Act also raises the statute of limitations for civil cases. Victims may sue their abusers any time before their 55th birthday. For past victims of child sex abuse, a one-year "look-back" provision will allow them to file lawsuits against their perpetrators. 

Cuomo, who signed the bill at the New York Daily News in Manhattan, praised the newspaper's coverage of the bill over the years. He acknowledged the difficulty victims faced in persuading some legislators to advance the legislation. 

"Today says justice is done," Cuomo said. "Today says nobody is above the law." 

Until this year, the legislation faced opposition in the state Senate. Republicans controlled the chamber and expressed concerns about certain provisions, mainly the one-year look-back. Despite support in the Democratic-led state Assembly, the bill never advanced in the state Senate. 

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When Democrats won the state Senate majority, they made passage of the Child Victims Act a high priority.

In late January, the state Legislature considered the Child Victims Act. During the debates in both chambers, a handful of legislators revealed they were sexually abused as children. The powerful statements silenced the Assembly and Senate. When the legislators concluded, their colleagues — and guests in the gallery — applauded. 

The Assembly passed the bill by a 130-3 vote. It was unanimously approved by the state Senate

The signing of the Child Victims Act was celebrated by advocates, many of whom ventured to Albany year after year and urged lawmakers to pass the bill. 

Gary Greenberg, a businessman and child sexual abuse survivor, formed an organization — Protect NY Kids — to lobby for passage of the Child Victims Act. Last year, he traveled around the state to support Democratic candidates who pledged to vote for the legislation. 

"Today, I have fulfilled a lifelong commitment," he said. "Since 1967, I have sworn to myself, and to survivors that I have met, that we would see justice one day. The 7-year-old Gary Greenberg whose soul was murdered and taken away from him by a real-life monster so many years ago was vindicated today, as predators in New York have been put on notice: Your days of terrorizing New York's children are over." 

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.