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Faith In Brooklyn for February 1: Religious leaders hail Albany’s passage of Child Victims Act

February 1, 2019 By Francesca Norsen Tate Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Victims of child sexual abuse and their advocates praised the New York State legislature’s passage of the Child Victims Act this week. Several religious leaders, including Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, also praised the passage of this bill.

On Monday, both houses of the New York State legislature passed the bill that will increase the statute of limitations for cases of child sexual abuse. The Child Victims Act will allow child victims to seek prosecution against their abuser until the age of 55 in civil cases, a significant increase from the previous limit of age 23.

For criminal cases, victims can seek prosecution until they turn 28. The bill also includes a one-year window during which victims of any age or time limit can come forward to prosecute.

DiMarzio issued a statement on Jan. 29. “Today the New York State Legislature passed, and Governor Cuomo is expected to sign into law, the Child Victims Act,” he said. “We pray this landmark legislation will help bring some measure of healing to all survivors of child sex abuse by offering them a path of recourse and reconciliation. This legislation is another important step to aid all victim-survivors, not just in the Church, but across all of society as we work to address this terrible evil.

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Mark Meyer Appel (right) with former state Assemblymember Margaret Markey, one of the sponsors of the Child Victims Act. Photo credit: GifterPhotos/courtesy of Mark Meyer Appel

“Within the Church, we all know the devastating toll child sex abuse takes on its victims and its effects throughout adulthood,” DiMarzio continued. “We have taken steps to assist survivors in healing from the damage. We have offered outreach to victims and provided them with numerous resources such as therapy provided by independent licensed mental health practitioners and varying support groups. We have also offered our Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) which has provided for many victims an important acknowledgment they wanted from the Church that this did happen to them.”

SNAP, the Survivors Network that provides support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings, issued a statement on Tues., Jan. 29: “We applaud the New York State Assembly for taking this much-needed step towards prevention, justice and accountability. The passage of the Child Victims Act sends a strong signal to survivors that their experiences have not been forgotten and that preventing future cases of abuse is critical. By opening this civil window and allowing cases to proceed, survivors of sexual assault now have a chance to expose their abusers in court and help ensure other children are safe, something that would not have been possible but for this much-needed reform.

“We hope that other states will follow the lead of New York and make efforts to reform statutes of limitation in their own states,” the statement concluded.

Mark Meyer Appel, founder of the Bridge Multicultural and Advocacy Project, expressed joy at the passage of the Child Victims Act. His organization works “to unite and energize people of every racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious group across New York City and the United States to address social issues facing society today.”

Advocates who assembled in Albany on Monday to witness the passage of the bill were in tears as reality settled in with the historic passage of the bill.

Appel issued a statement on Tuesday. “After years of lobbying by advocates and survivors The New York State Legislature has passed ‘The Child Victims Act’ which gives victims of sexual abuse a chance to sue their attackers and the institutions that harbored them, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred,” he said.

“Over fifteen years ago, Assemblywoman Marge Markey initiated the battle in New York to reform the statutes of limitation for child sex abuse,” Appel continued. “New York has been one of the worst states in the country for access to justice for victims, alongside Alabama and Mississippi.”


Plymouth Church’s New Abolitionists ministry works to end trafficking, supports survivors

Plymouth Church has an established history, since its founding in 1847, of fighting slavery. Whereas, in the 19th century, it fought the enslavement of blacks, today, it is fighting the sex slave and prostitution industry through a recently-established ministry called the New Abolitionists.

As Plymouth’s anti-trafficking ministry, the New Abolitionists works to free those trapped in modern day slavery, and to provide support to the victims so that they can begin new lives.

Last Sunday, Jan. 27 as part of Anti-Trafficking Month, the New Abolitionists sponsored “Sex Is Not Work,” a presentation and discussion by Chris Muller of Restore NYC. This organization’s “mission is to end sex trafficking in New York and restore the well-being and independence of foreign-national survivors.”

Chris Muller of Restore NYC leads an active discussion of the root causes and attitudes toward victims of trafficking. Brooklyn Eagle Photo by Francesca N. Tate

Chris Muller immediately brought attendees into the discussion on some of the root causes of systemic trafficking and the thriving of the prostitution industry. Writing on a dry-erase board, he charted out many of the attitudes that have been held against women throughout time: for example, that they are held to be of less value, expendable, disposable, powerless—and at the same time, attractive, desirable, possessing “sex appeal”—and very lucrative. The chart also spelled out the relationship between the seller, the buyer (patron) and the provider (the one who is coerced into providing such services).

Muller noted that the power here rests with the buyer and the patron. He said that what many call “the world’s oldest profession” is in fact “the world’s oldest form of oppression.”

Muller pointed out that “it’s necessary to talk about prostitution and sex trafficking together because they are two sides of the same coin. Both thrive because they are fueled by the same toxic market– the consumer demand for sex and the industry desire to profit off of selling sex.”

He told the Eagle later, “As mentioned in my presentation, the demand for this is incredible but the supply of those willing to provide sex services for money is nearly non-existent. Hence, traffickers and pimps use tactics like force, fraud and coercion, to fill the supply chain in attempts to meet the demand. This is where you see the intersection of sex trafficking– when force, fraud and coercion are used to get an individual to provide commercial sex for someone else’s financial benefit.”

Muller also devoted much time to what he and many believe is a misguided effort to decriminalize prostitution and sex trafficking with the idea that its appeal will decrease.

Beth Fleisher, a leader of Plymouth Church’s New Abolitionists Ministry, introduces speaker Chris Muller of partner organization Restore NYC. Brooklyn Eagle Photo by Francesca N. Tate

He said, “Amnesty International released a policy recommendation back in 2016 to decriminalize all parties involved in prostitution. This pro ‘sex work’ viewpoint has been given a lot of press in the last couple of years. But, as discussed yesterday, to fully decriminalize the commercial sex industry would be a tragedy because it would protect the wrong people. Restore NYC opposes such a measure.

“At Restore, we believe if the industry was fully decriminalized for those involved, meaning specifically the seller (pimp), the buyer (patron) and the provider, then it would only cause more harm to victims. We see through our work on the front lines and hear through the voices of survivors across the globe that those providing sex are driven to the industry because of a lack of choices and an overwhelming intersection of vulnerabilities. This is why many survivors and advocates have historically called prostitution the ‘choice-less’ choice.”

Muller and Beth Fleisher, head of Plymouth Church’s New Abolitionists, said that, to the best of their knowledge, there is currently no such decriminalization law being proposed. However, online articles show the push to decriminalize to be as recent as last year.

“As we’ve seen in other countries in Europe and elsewhere, legalizing prostitution or fully decriminalizing the industry only leads to further harm and exploitation of victims, who the overwhelming majority are women and girls, and it creates legal protection for those who buy sex and those who profit off of it, who the overwhelming majority are men,” they said. “This must be stopped.”

Plymouth Church’s Underground Thrift Store is part of the church’s ongoing anti-trafficking ministry. It donates about 25 percent of its proceeds to partners such as Restore NYC to help the survivors.

This board charts out the flow of supply and demand in sex trafficking. Brooklyn Eagle Photo by Francesca N. Tate

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