The New York Assembly Is, Surprisingly, Dragging Its Feet On Passing a Bill That Would Allow Survivors Of Sexual Assault to Sue Them

The Adult Survivor Act would allow sexual assault victims to sue institutions that failed them

The New York Assembly Is, Surprisingly, Dragging Its Feet On Passing a Bill That Would Allow Survivors Of Sexual Assault to Sue Them
Image:Bennett Raglin (Getty Images)

A New York State bill called the Adult Survivors Act, which would give those who had experienced sexual abuse but never pressed charges a year to file civil complaints, has passed the state Senate. Yet it remains mysteriously bogged down in the states Assembly Judiciary Committee, leaving some to wonder if that’s because the bill opens the Assembly, along with Governor Andrew Cuomo, open to a whole bunch of lawsuits.

Take, for example, Elizabeth Crothers, who attempted to report to the Assembly that she had allegedly been raped by Michael Boxley, the chief counsel to longtime Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Silver publicly declared Boxley’s innocence before the investigation was complete, and after hearing from police how unlikely her case was to ever be prosecuted, Crothers just dropped it, though Boxly was eventually arrested and charged with raping someone else. The Adult Survivor Act, like the recently passed Child Victim’s Act, would offer people like Crothers a limited window to at least seek some financial recompense for what they’d been through. Since the passing of the Children Survivors Act, people who had been sexually abused only to see that abuse covered up by giant organizations—like the Boy Scouts of America and the Catholic diocese—have been able to finally seek justice in civil, if not criminal, court.

However, the fact that the bill would allow victims to seek some small measure of justice for the crimes committed against them is likely why the Assembly, which allowed crimes like those allegedly committed against Crothers to be quietly brushed aside for years, does not want the bill to succeed, say those familiar with the Assembly. It’s also possible that recent allegations of sexual harassment made against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo are holding up the process, according to Mother Jones:

“It’s a matter of speculation whether the bill, if passed, would allow any of Cuomo’s accusers to sue him. But as one lawmaker told the Albany Times Union, the timing is “super awkward.” “Would the governor perceive passing legislation protecting survivors as a personal offense at him?” Crothers wonders. Meanwhile, the very Assembly Judiciary committee where the Adult Survivors Act is stalled is currently undertaking its own, slow investigation into the claims against Cuomo—raising the ire of the Sexual Harassment Working Group, who says it is providing “cover” for the governor.”

Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, a sponsor of the Adult Survivors Act, says she has neither heard any reasoning for why the bill is not moving forward nor been given the opportunity to ask questions about the progress of the bill. It really is almost as if some of these people did some terrible things and do not want to be sued for having done them.

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