2004-11-12 / Community

Smith Favors Child Abuse Statute Reform

State Senator Malcolm Smith speaks to the Rockaway chapter of the Voice of the Faithful at a recent meeting. Smith favored changing the statute that allows pedophiles to escape punishment due to the statute of limitations.
State Senator Malcolm Smith speaks to the Rockaway chapter of the Voice of the Faithful at a recent meeting. Smith favored changing the statute that allows pedophiles to escape punishment due to the statute of limitations. Despite his busy pre-election schedule in late October, State Senator Malcolm Smith came to the American Legion Hall to address a community meeting sponsored by the Rockaway Voice of the Faithful. The Rockaway community invited its elected state officials in order to effect reform in the current New York State Statute of Limitations as it pertains to sexual abuse of children. The VOTF views this as a community concern, not solely a Catholic issue.

As the law now stands, sexual abuse against minors can only be prosecuted for a period of five years from the commission of the crime. VOTF wants this limit extended since, in many cases, children cannot or will not be able to talk about what has happened to them until long after the events, sometimes until they are in their twenties or thirties.

Senator Smith assured the group of his support of legislation currently making its way through the state legislative process. He said that there were “some issues” being worked out, including a provision that would make the statute retroactive to include crimes committed in the past as well as those that may be committed in future.

Echoing Senator Smith’s support was Joanne Shapiro, Chief of Staff to Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (who was out of state that evening). Shapiro reported that Assemblywoman Pheffer has long been a proponent of extending the statute of limitations for victims of sexual abuse and would support Senator Smith’s efforts in getting the legislation passed and signed by the governor.

Asked how we could help him in getting the legislation out of committee and onto the governor’s desk for signature, Smith and Shapiro advised the audience to begin now with a letter-writing campaign to our representatives, Assemblywomen Pheffer and Titus. They said individual letters mean more than petitions, and a bus trip up to Albany should be considered as a step in the future. The audience thanked the Senator for his support and closed the meeting with a rousing rendition of “We Shall Overcome.”

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