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New York State Capitol

The state Capitol in Albany.

New York state entered 2018 with some serious deficiencies in how its laws support people victimized by sexual abusers, but as the year draws to a close, lawmakers and the governor have made some significant progress.

The most recent example came last week when Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law a sexual assault survivors bill of rights.

The measure, passed last session by the state Assembly and Senate, puts into law steps that must be taken to make sure alleged victims in sexual assault cases understand and can exercise their rights.

Among those rights are access to a rape crisis counselor, free health-care services, information about their rape kits and the status of their criminal cases. Law enforcement agencies must establish policies that guide communicating with alleged victims in these cases. The law goes into effect in 180 days, at which time New York will be the 16th state with this type of bill of rights.

That new law followed a legal change made as part of the state budget adopted last spring that extends the time rape kits must be preserved. That went from an incredibly short 30 days to 20 years. At the same time, the state is pushing to end a high backlog of rape kit testing.

All of these measures demonstrate important — and badly overdue — reforms in how the state deals with sexual abuse.

As 2019 comes into focus, we urge lawmakers and the governor not to rest on these issues because more progress can and must be made. At the top of the to-do list should be extension of statutes of limitations in sex abuse cases.

For all but the most serious sexual abuse crimes, New York's statute of limitations on child sex abuse crimes has been woefully inadequate. A measure to change that, for both criminal and civil cases, has been approved by the Assembly for multiple years only to be blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate.

With Senate control shifting this year, that can change. Cuomo last week signaled that this issue was among his top priorities for the start of the 2019 session, and we hope lawmakers in both houses feel the same way.

The Citizen Editorial Board includes publisher Rob Forcey, managing editor Mike Dowd and executive editor Jeremy Boyer.

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