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Advocates applaud Cuomo's plan to help victims of child sexual abuse

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Local supporters are reacting to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision to step forward and assist child sex abuse victims.

Cuomo unveiled his 2017 policy initiatives in a book, which included a plan for the Child Victims Act. The proposal would do away with the statute of limitation on prosecutions of those who abused children.  Further, it would allow victims to bring civil lawsuits for 50 years from when their attacks took place.

"It is a long time coming,” said Mary Whittier, executive director of Bivona Child Advocacy Center, “This is about what's best for victims and survivors, not about what is best for defendants." 

Cuomo wrote the proposal would give many victims, who would have otherwise been forced to remain silent, the opportunity to have their day in court.  

"This law is antiquated. It really doesn't address all of what we know about trauma to kids, how they may not talk about it right away, and how a lot of times adults need to get professional help and counseling before they can feel the courage to be able to disclose,” Whittier said.

The governor will also eliminate the need to file a notice of claim with a public entity before being able to bring a lawsuit against that entity. Under New York law, victims are required to file notices of claim before they file a lawsuit against a public entity.

“The outdated laws of New York do not adequately address the needs of these young victims,” Cuomo wrote.

Children who come to Bivona Child Advocacy Center in Rochester receive an interview, a medical examination, meet with a victim advocate and connect with a therapist, all under one roof. Whittier said Cuomo’s proposal will arm staff with more tools to make a difference in the lives of a vulnerable population.

“Because we see a lot of those clients, we can now talk and educate them on their rights as a victim of sexual assault,” Whittier said. 

Sasha-Ann Simons joined the team at WXXI News in 2015 as a Multimedia Reporter/Producer. She tells stories about the innovation economy and technology in upstate New York and also does general assignment reporting. Sasha-Ann is the host of Arts InFocus, WXXI-TV's weekly arts and culture program. She is also a fill-in host and regular contributor to Need To Know.