Fighting to support child sexual abuse survivors

Posted at 6:38 PM, Mar 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-05 18:38:40-05

"I never want a child to go through what I went through," Tom Travers said. "To have to unravel years of depression of confusion of anger of shame."

Travers is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and an advocate for people who have gone through similar trauma. He says he was raped by a priest in the Buffalo Diocese decades ago when he was an altar boy.

"As children, we have no idea that we were traumatized," Travers said. "We don't have words to ask for help when we're suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts. We end up just burying that inside of us and building defense mechanisms around ourselves to protect ourselves."

In Travers case, it took decades to come to terms with what happened. That's one of the reasons he is fighting for New York State lawmakers to pass the Child Victims Act.

The legislation has been discussed in Albany for the past decade, but has never made it into law.

It would extend the statute of limitations to age 28 for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to come forward and pursue criminal charges and to age 50 to initiate civil lawsuits. Under current state law, survivors only have until age 23 to initiate legal action.

The Child Victims Act would also allow a one year look back period for survivors to initiate legal action whose instances of sexual abuse date back decades.

Another piece of the legislation would remove current language in state law that requires survivors to initiate a lawsuit within 90 days of the alleged abuse if the suit is against public employers.

The bill has passed the State Assembly and is included in Governor Cuomo's proposed 2018 budget, but it has never been brought to a vote in the Republican-controlled State Senate.

NYS Senator Patrick Gallivan, (R) Elma, released the following statement to 7 Eyewitness News:

“I certainly support doing everything necessary to prevent the sexual victimization of children and to ensure accountability for those that commit these despicable acts. In addition to the work the Senate has already advanced toward that end, I have introduced legislation (S7372) to close a loophole that does not require private school teachers and administrators - unlike their public school counterparts - to report allegations of abuse and co-sponsor legislation (S4809) extending the criminal and civil statutes of limitation in these matters.  I will continue to work with my Senate colleagues in an effort to pursue comprehensive and meaningful reform.”

NYS Senator Chris Jacobs, (R) Buffalo, released the following statement to 7 Eyewitness News:

"It is my strong belief that we will successfully pass legislation this session in Albany to significantly extend or completely eliminate the statute of limitations, both criminally and civilly, for children who were victims of sexual assault.  We know that due to the trauma of this child abuse, it may take many years before these victims are able to confront their perpetrators and the institutions that enabled them and we owe them as much time as they need."

Both Senators were asked to comment on the Child Victims Act specifically, but the legislation was not addressed in either statement.

"The simple truth is that sexual abuse is a systemic problem in our society," Travers said. "It exists in schools. It exists in institutions. It exists in clubs."

Travers and NYS Senator Tim Kennedy, (D) South Buffalo, will speak together at a public event discussing the Child Victims Act. The event is scheduled for Saturday, March 10 at 1:00 p.m. in Harriman Hall at University at Buffalo's South Campus.

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