New Baltimore attorney and activist Gary Greenberg is pleading with state lawmakers to amend the Child Victims Act because it has largely failed to provide justice to victims.
This seems like a strange position to take for someone who is a child-sex abuse victim himself and who wrestled for 13 years to deliver the CVA to a vote in the state Legislature. Yet Greenberg’s logic is sound, when you consider that thousands of victims abused by a family member or a stranger, or people who live in rural areas, face the greatest barriers to finding attorneys to take their cases, especially if a victim’s abuser lacks financial wealth or other assets.
In other words, Greenberg said, if there are no spoils to be gained from winning a lawsuit, attorneys don’t want any part of it. Yes, justice is linked to profit.
Meanwhile, the state Senate last week unanimously passed the Adult Survivors Act, which would give people ages 18 and older one year to file civil lawsuits for past sexual abuse and hold abusers accountable, even if statutes of limitations on those legal claims have expired. Greenberg’s point is that, if lawyers will refuse to take nothing but lucrative Child Victims Act lawsuits, why would they take on similar lawsuits under similar legislation?
Supporters say adult survivors of sexual abuse can include people assaulted or abused by medical providers, formerly incarcerated people or models in the fashion industry, athletes abused by coaches or teammates and others. Greenberg argues these examples of adult survivors involve large, wealthy institutions, and would likely see their cases move forward.
Child-sex abuse survivors from across the state have raised concern about the Adult Survivors Act for incidents occurring after age 18 as they struggle to retain attorneys or legal representation to advance their own Child Victims Act cases in court.
Greenberg rightly described the Adult Survivors Act as a piece of Kafkaesque legislation.
“It’s very frustrating to think you’re going to get justice and call attorneys because no one will take your case,” he said last week. “It leaves you standing at the door of justice and not being able to get through that door. They’re basically being revictimized.”
Some glimmers of hope have emerged from the Assembly. Leading Democrats, including Speaker Carl Heastie and Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Lavine are expected to examine the Child Victims Act. Greenberg said he is confident leaders will seriously examine and amend the Adult Survivors Act bill to meet criteria so every victim has the chance for justice.
By passing the Adult Survivors Act, the state Senate put the cart before the horse. We urge the Assembly to set things right by amending this legislation.