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ALBANY, N.Y. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Thousands of victims are coming forward under the Child Victims Act (CVA), providing a clearer picture of the true scale of the clerical sex abuse crisis in New York.
The CVA went into effect in August 2019 after more than a decade of delays and setbacks. Just last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law a one-year extension to the measure, providing more time for victims to file lawsuits after the Wuhan virus pandemic led to delays for both court services and survivors alike. Survivors now have until Aug. 13, 2021 to bring a lawsuit — no matter how long ago the incident occurred.
The numbers of victims coming forward as a result of the CVA are stunning. Attorney Jeff Anderson, who leads the legal campaign against sexual abuse and cover-up in the Catholic Church, told Church Militant on Tuesday that so far more than 3,000 victims have come forward in New York. His law firm, Jeff Anderson & Associates, has filed more than 1,000 of those cases on behalf of survivors of childhood sex abuse by Catholic clergy across New York, the lawyer said.
The lawsuits have publicly identified almost 400 perpetrators of child sexual abuse, he elaborated.
The legislation allows the victims to seek criminal prosecution until the age of 28, an increase from the prior age limit of 23. In civil cases, victims can seek prosecution until they turn 55.
Anderson explained he and his associates are very busy filing cases. "The numbers demonstrate the magnitude of the problem never addressed in the archdiocese. Well, the courthouse doors are now open. It's time for a reckoning," he said in July.
Anderson's attorneys are servicing victims in all eight of New York's Roman Catholic dioceses. He listed the number of clerical sex abuse cases his firm has filed in the archdioceses of:
The lawyer noted that four dioceses — Rochester, Buffalo, Brooklyn and Syracuse — have filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy after CVA came into effect as a dodge to avoid having to pay millions of dollars to victims in compensation for the abuse:
In February, the Diocese of Ogdensburg publicly confirmed it is exploring the option of filing for bankruptcy, he continued.
Catholic leaders worked against the original passage of the CVA in 2019.
As reported by Church Militant, the New York State Catholic Conference (NYSCC) hired some of the most influential lobbying firms in New York, including Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker, Patricia Lynch Associates, Hank Sheinkopf and Mark Behan Communications. State records reveal that from 2007–2015, the NYSCC spent more than $2.1 million targeting the Child Victims Act and similar bills.
New York's Cdl. Timothy Dolan made headlines by personally pressing lawmakers to restrict the CVA. In March 2018, the cardinal showed up in Albany — unannounced — to lobby against the so-called look-back window, which allows victims a grace period for reporting abuse. The cardinal called the measure "toxic," warning it would lead to a flood of new claims against the New York diocese.
Cuomo touted the extension. "The Child Victims Act brought a long-needed pathway to justice for people who were abused, and helps right wrongs that went unacknowledged and unpunished for far too long," he said, "and we cannot let this pandemic limit the ability for survivors to have their day in court."
"By extending this window for survivors, the state of New York is standing on the right side of history," said Anderson. "The number of courageous survivors who have come forward in less than a year highlights the magnitude of the systemic problems within the Catholic Church and beyond."
"During these challenging times, it is more important than ever to provide survivors the time and support they need to come forward and speak their truths,” Anderson underscored.