Child abuse victims stung by Albany inaction

By Shant Shahrigian

June 25, 2014

Horace Mann School graduate Joseph Cumming says it took him 34 years to fully realize his treatment at the hands of his music teacher Johannes Somary was sexual abuse. But by then, even if he had wanted to, it was far too late for him to take legal action. New York’s criminal and civil statute of limitations for sexual abuse of minors is five years after the victim turns 18.

After revelations of decades of abuse involving more than 30 victims at Horace Mann emerged in June 2012, the Bronx District Attorney’s office said the limitations prevented it from prosecuting any of the perpetrators.

The state legislature’s recent failure to take up the Child Victims Act — which would eliminate the criminal and civil statues of limitations for child sexual abuse and create a one-year window for past victims to seek justice — infuriated Mr. Cumming and other survivors.

They placed the blame on state Sen. Co-Majority Leader Jeff Klein, the leader of the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), who decides which bills come to the floor of the senate in consultation with Republican Co-Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

“The main reason [the Child Victims Act] has not passed is that there is a caucus of centrist Democrats in the senate who have blocked it again and again,” Mr. Cumming said of the IDC. “I would not be sorry to see [Mr. Klein] voted out of office.”

Mr. Klein is facing a Democratic primary challenge from former Councilman Oliver Koppell.

A man who says he suffered sexual abuse at the Hackley School in Tarrytown, N.Y., which earlier this year acknowledged abuse of students in the 1960s, echoed Mr. Cumming’ point of view.

“These politicians end up protecting very bad people,” said the surivor, who did not want his name published.

The New York State Catholic Conference is strongly opposed to the act, saying it would unfairly subject the church — which has seen widespread allegations of child abuse by priests in recent years — to costly litigation.

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