It’s Time To Find The Middle Ground To Help Child Sex Abuse Victims

State Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, is trying to find a middle ground to help victims of child sex abuse.

Earlier this month, Young introduced the Child Victims Reconciliation and Compensation Fund in the Senate with 19 co-sponsors. Instead of opening up individual abusers or institutions and their insurance companies be sued and pay out settlements, Young’s proposal is to have a fund run out of the state Comptroller’s Office where victims can make their case and then, if their claim is found valid, receive a payment. Young makes a good point in saying that her legislation is open to all child sex abuse victims, not just those involved in the public scandals involving the Catholic Church or other public agencies. And, many abusers have no ability to pay, so many civil cases involving child sex crimes are symbolic victories that come with a high price for the victim.

The Senate and Assembly would come together to confirm a chief administrator for the fund. That chief administrator would then review past child sex abuse complaints and have the power to hire hearing officers who have experience in investigating, prosecuting or defending child sex abuse allegations. The officers would have the ability to issue subpoenas and to compel people to testify. Once the evidence is heard, the chief administrator would determine the amount of compensation and information like the abuser’s name would be made public. Future victims who don’t meet legal statutes of limitation could still seek restitution from the compensation fund.

Senate Republicans have had many reasons, over the years, for not moving forward with the Child Victims Act. Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, laid out some interesting reasons for voting against the Child Victims Act in the Assembly. Young makes a compelling argument that the Child Victims Act may make the restitution process easier for victims to navigate and allow closure to their cases faster than by using the court system.

We don’t expect to see Young’s legislation approved. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has issues with the bill, while Democrats across the state are making the Child Victims Act the centerpiece of their fall election campaigns. We find it funny, though, that for years Democrats excoriated Senate Republicans for their intransigence on the Child Victims Act. If Democrats refuse to even discuss the Child Victims Reconciliation and Compensation Fund, isn’t that just the pot calling the kettle black?

Obviously, many Republicans have issues with the Child Victims Act, while many Democrats have problems with the Child Victims Reconciliation and Compensation Fund proposal. Governing is the process of finding a middle ground that everyone can live with. It’s time for Republicans and Democrats to do just that rather than preserving a hot-button argument for this fall’s campaign.