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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Passover Prayer On Behalf of Abused and Neglected Children

                                              JOIN US IN PRAYERS

 
                                                                                     
 
THE AWARENESS CENTER
  BY VICKI POLIN

(2007) Author Unknown

The prayer below was written for protective parents and their loved ones, child abuse advocates, and all who care about children to recite at their passover seder. A spring onion is added to the seder plate, or placed on the table as a symbol.

The Passover Seder is a time to celebrate our freedom and remember those who still struggle for the freedoms they deserve. Freedom from tyranny, violence, and oppression is a core value for us as our ancestors have known slavery, and our heart goes out to the enslaved and the imprisoned of any race, culture or creed. Tonight we remember a group of individuals often forgotten, trapped by a kind of slavery so cruel, that society often looks the other way---children (including adult survivors of child abuse) enslaved in lives of abuse.

Today I remember  a child or children you know trapped in lives of abuse. or substitute... "these children.") Though many of us have tried to free them, the Pharaohs in our generation have blocked our efforts or looked the other way. Our hearts ache knowing the pain these children live with day after day. They are not forgotten. With this prayer we share our commitment to find a way to liberate them from their lives of exploitation and tyranny.

This spring onion on the Seder plate is our symbol for these children and their plight. The shape of the onion reminds us of the whips used on slaves to keep them subjugated. The tears we shed from the onion remind us of the silent tears of these children waiting for rescue. The newness of the onion reminds us of the promise of hope, that one day these children can grow healthy and free from the tyranny they are living with today.

We pray for the wisdom to find an effective path to liberate these children. We pray for the courage to stand up to the Pharaoh's of our generation and speak the truth of what we know. We pray for the strength and fortitude to keep on fighting for their freedom.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

MISSING CHILD ALERT NEW YORK CITY

 Stephanie Gonzalez a student at PS 120 was last seen yesterday at 7pm wearing a purple hoody with Marley written on the back of it, grey yoga pants and a pair of converse. If anyone sees her or has any information about her whereabouts please contact the 120 Precient 1 (718) 876-8500.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Markey Pushes Her Bill To Prosecute Child Abusers

Markey Pushes Her Bill To Prosecute Child Abusers
BY JOHN TOSCANO

“Researchers tell us that one in five children in America is a victim of childhood sex abuse—most of it at the hands of family members or acquaintances, or by other people they trust and respect...” “Researchers tell us that one in five children in America is a victim of childhood sex abuse—most of it at the hands of family members or acquaintances, or by other people they trust and respect...” With sordid stories of child abuse again shocking the nation, Assemblymember Margaret Markey (D–Maspeth) has renewed her push for her legislation to give child abuse victims more time to bring their abusers to justice.
Under Markey’s bill, the Child Victims Act, victims of childhood sexual abuse would have a one year additional period to pursue prosecution of cases that in many instances are reported many years after they were committed putting their perpetrators beyond facing charges.
Markey’s bill has passed the Assembly on three past occasions, but in each case the bill could not get state senate approval.
Presently, the legislation is again being considered and recently had a public hearing before the Assembly Codes Committee.
Markey stated last week, “Researchers tell us that one in five children in America is a victim of childhood sex abuse—most of it at the hands of family members or acquaintances, or by other people they trust and respect.
“But since most victims of this abuse are not able to report what has happened to them until they are well into adulthood, we know that our current law is inadequate.”
The two most recent cases illustrate this pattern. Both cases, at Syracuse University and Penn State, were committed many years ago and are just coming to light. The Penn State case is being prosecuted, but the statute of limitations, or the period when the Syracuse cases could be prosecuted, has ended and the cases are closed.
Addressing this aspect of abuse cases in general, Markey stated that existing New York law enables many predators to avoid consequences of their immoral and illegal acts by running out the clock on their crime—taking advantage of “arbitrary and out-dated” statute of limitations.

The lawmaker explained her legislation would extend the civil and criminal statute of limitations for these crimes, giving victims “a greater opportunity to have their day in court”. She said it also means that New York can provide an opportunity for previous victims of child sexual abuse to get their day in court.
“I know this bill will also protect future generations of New York children from abuse by exposing pedophiles who have previously been hidden,” she noted.
Markey listed these reasons why passage of her bill was important for New York:
•Current law enables predators to avoid prosecution.
•Her proposal gives victims more time to get justice.
•The one year window provided by her bill would expose predators who may still be active abusers.
•Her bill does not unfairly target agencies, institutions and organizations as liable for events which occurred decades ago.
•Her bill would not lead to false allegations and swamp the courts.
•The bill does not unfairly target the Catholic Church.
•Her bill will help victims of abuse who have claims against public sector agencies.
Regarding the reference to the Catholic Church, Markey expanded it, saying: “Catholics today have long been paying for the past mistakes of church leaders in mishandling cases of abuse. The legal vulnerability and financial burden upon Catholic dioceses across the country has prompted some to ask why the church of today must pay for mistakes that may have been made in the past.
“The truth is that faithful Catholics have been shouldering costs relating to abuse for decades, unknowingly paying for defense lawyers, public relations firms, secret settlements and insurance policies to cover abuse cases. Even despite these once secret costs and the new settlements we read about today, there is no independent evidence that any diocese actually faces an involuntary bankruptcy, despite claims to the contrary.”
Last Thursday, Markey held a press conference in Albany to kick off a Lobby Day rally for her legislation. Three adult survivors of child sex abuse described how the state’s existing statute of limitations prevented them from getting justice.
Among them was independent filmmaker Christopher Gavagan who is making a documentary film, Coached Into Silence, which tells first-person stories, including his own, of child sexual abuse in- cidents in organized youth sports.
The project probes the organizations, institutional and legal systems that he says have silenced victims for life while protecting profits, reputations and in some cases the predators themselves.
Among others participating in the press conference was Robert Kristan who, Markey said, heads the New York Coalition to Protect Children, which organized the Lobby Day for her bill. Also taking part was Mark Meyer Appel, president of the Voice of Justice, who was joined by Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum, director of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, a coalition of 800 synagogues. The National Black Church Initiative was represented by Rev. Dr. Sheldon E. Williams.
At the Assembly Codes Committee hearing in Manhattan last month, Markey said witnesses “spoke about the severe impact of childhood sexual abuse on victims and the reasons why many victims don’t ever come forward about what happened to them until well into adulthood, if ever. They also spoke about the high economic cost of childhood sexual abuse to government and society.”
One witness, Professor Marci Hamilton, of Cardozo Law School, testified, according to Markey, that “there are untold numbers of hidden child predators who are preying on one child after another because statutes of limitation have been configured to give them that opportunity”.
Markey said another strong argument for a longer statute of limitations in child abuse cases was made by Assistant District Attorney Eric Rosenbaum, of Queens District Attorney Richard Brown’s staff.
Rosenbaum, Chief of the DNA Unit of the Special Victim’s Bureau, said that when that office reviewed backlog DNA evidence that had been collected during a period of 10 years beginning in the late 1980s, they found 75 cases where a perpetrator was able to be identified, but who was not able to be prosecuted.
Markey commented: “We have become all too familiar with the horrendous personal impact of child sexual abuse on individual children and their families. Now, we also know that all of society is affected by child rape and sexual abuse.”

JOIN US FRIDAY MARCH 8, 2013 AT 9:30 AM AT CITY HALL PLAZA TO VOICE YOUR SUPPORT FOR A INCREASE IN THE STATUE OF LIMIMITATIONS FOR SEX ABUSE OFFENSES ... NEW YORK STATE May Ease Statute of Limitations for Decades-Old Child Sex Abuse Claim SPECIAL NOTICE TO THOSE NOT ABLE TO ATTEND THE HEARING IN PERSON: The Codes Committee Public Hearing on SOL legislation may be viewed live on the NY State Assembly website, www.assembly.state.ny.us. Click on “Watch Live” button on the upper right corner of home page.

                                                                



BY PAUL BERGER       THE FORWARD
 
Adults abused as children decades ago in New York could file civil lawsuits against their abusers and the institutions that employed them, if a national surge of legislative reform reaches Albany.
Advocates for child sex abuse victims say that this year, the prospects look good for a bill that sank four times previously following strong opposition from Catholic and ultra-Orthodox groups. If passed, the legislation could ease the way for a slew of lawsuits against Jewish and Catholic institutions accused of failing to report accounts of child sex abuse to law enforcement authorities.
 
“I’ve never been more optimistic we can succeed in 2013,” the bill’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, said.
Yeshiva University may also be casting a wary eye toward Albany as it continues to investigate a scandal involving abuse allegations first reported by the Forward and dating back four decades.

The bill, known as the Child Victims Act, still faces a real test in the state senate where a key Democrat, Jeffrey Klein, indicated he would not support it.
But, Markey said, the success of similar legislation in other states as well as a wave of similar bills being considered across the country this year gave her hope.
The statute of limitations sets a time limit within which victims of abuse must file civil claims against their alleged abusers or within which prosecutors must seek indictments against alleged perpetrators. The statute for civil and criminal charges varies state by state. In New York, those who claim they were abused as children must file a civil claim before their 23rd birthday.
This year, a dozen states are considering — or have already passed — legislation that extends or lifts time limits for abuse victims to file civil suits against individuals or institutions culpable for their abuse, or for prosecutors to pursue criminal cases. The legislation covers only sexual abuse cases occurring from the present day onwards, so some states are also considering bills that would open up a brief window for retroactive claims.
Arkansas eliminated the criminal statute of limitations for sexual abuse in February. Meanwhile, bills are pending in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and California, among other states, that would extend or eliminate the statute of limitations in criminal or civil cases. Some of these include so-called window legislation. A bill that would eliminate the civil statute of limitations is expected to be introduced in the New Jersey legislature soon.
“This is the most activity ever,” said Marci Hamilton, chair of public law at Y.U.’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and one of the nation’s leading advocates for ending the statute of limitations on abuse crimes. Hamilton said that increased publicity about child abuse and about the legal hurdles that victims face as adults when they try to file complaints has garnered enormous support. “So many victims never get justice,” Hamilton said, noting that it “really moved legislators to consider enacting these kinds of laws.”
Hamilton is among more than a dozen specialists who will testify at a public hearing being held by the New York State Assembly’s Codes Committee, in Manhattan, on March 8. Prosecutors, lawyers and advocates who have experience in child sexual abuse cases are also expected to appear. They include individuals who were involved with recent abuse scandals in institutions such as New York’s Poly Prep Country Day School and the Horace Mann School.
Hamilton is one of two Y.U. employees who will appear at the hearing. Since December of last year, more than 20 former students who attended the university’s Manhattan high school for boys have told the Forward that they were abused by two of the school’s staff members over a period ranging from the late 1970s to the early ’90s. Several said that they or their families alerted Y.U. officials but got no response. Y.U. has commissioned a prominent law firm to conduct an investigation into the allegations.
Neither Hamilton nor Rabbi Yosef Blau, the other Y.U. staff member who will speak at the public hearing, said they would deliver testimony directly related to — or defending — Y.U. Nevertheless, Hamilton, the author of a recent book calling for the abolition of the statute of limitations, said she had made her position clear to her employers.
“The cover-up of child sex abuse in any institution is a cancer,” Hamilton said. “And unless you cut it out and get the authorities involved, and make good for all that you did wrong, it will haunt you. And so it’s better for my institution that they be made accountable and they are accountable than to let it fester.”Blau said he intended to testify about his personal experiences dealing with abuse that occurred decades ago.
Blau was one of three rabbis who served on a religious court that, during the late 1980s, largely absolved an Orthodox Union youth leader, Baruch Lanner, of abuse allegations. Blau said the rabbis set a limit of 10 years from any incident for victims to testify against Lanner, which prevented many people from coming forward. Lanner was allowed to continue working with children and was convicted, in 2002, of sexually abusing two girls.
Blau, a spiritual adviser at Y.U. since the late 1970s, said that many victims take decades to come forward, finding the courage to speak out only after they have been in therapy, or once they have the support of a spouse. “It is clear to me that the statute of limitations… eliminates a large number… of people who cannot come forward [earlier],” Blau said.
He added: “I’ve been involved in this issue for a long period of time, and I certainly don’t think I should stop being involved because there’s a problem now at Yeshiva [University].”
A spokesman for Y.U. declined to comment on the institution’s view of the Child Victims Act. But, he added, “Yeshiva University faculty have the academic freedom to teach, discuss, research, publish or pursue any topics as they see fit.”
The New York State legislation was introduced by Markey, a Queens Democrat, last fall. Earlier versions of the bill have passed the state assembly four times, only to meet staunch opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate, where they have been blocked from coming to the floor for a vote.
Last year, following a tightly contested election, Republicans were able to cling to control of the Senate only by forming a pact with a handful of Democrats. One of those Democrats, Jeffrey Klein, supports extending the statute of limitations but only for criminal charges.
“I don’t believe that exposing religious institutions to open-ended, never ending, and potentially devastating civil liability is a smart approach,” Klein said. “Instead, I think we should give victims a better opportunity to pursue criminal charges against the individuals who commit these crimes.”
Evan Stavisky, a partner at the political consulting firm The Parkside Group, said that the Senate now passes relatively few items of controversial legislation, because of the political instability of its current, closely divided membership. Stavisky noted that the Senate passed gun control legislation in January and that, in the coming months, it is set to weigh reproductive health and minimum-wage legislation. “But certainly there is great support [for the Child Victims Act], so you can’t rule it dead until the session is over,” Stavisky said.
The bill’s chances would improve dramatically if New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo were to throw his support behind it. A spokesman for Cuomo did not respond to a call for comment.
Like its earlier versions, the Child Victims Act proposes a one-year window for victims to bring retroactive claims of abuse. Although previous versions of the act extended the statute of limitations by only five years the current version abolishes the statute entirely.
A spokesman for Markey, Mike Armstrong, said the assemblywoman was emboldened to push for abolition of the statute because opposition to the bill appears to have lost momentum. Armstrong said the perception that the act targets organized religion has been weakened by recent prosecutions related to abuse scandals at secular universities and schools, and in organizations like the Boy Scouts of America.
In past years, the New York State Catholic Conference has lobbied hard against the act, bolstered by Agudath Israel of America, an ultra-Orthodox umbrella organization. But the Catholic Church itself has faced blows to its reputation as scandals continue over its failure to confront sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy during past decades.
A spokesman for the Agudah declined to comment on the latest version of the act. In an interview with the Forward last November, Rabbi David Zwiebel, the Agudah’s executive vice president, said his organization supported criminal and possibly civil prosecution of individuals. But the group strongly opposed any legislation that opened up institutions to lawsuits because of the acts of an employee.
“That’s where you are talking about the potential of really destroying some very, very precious assets, which are our schools and shuls,” Zwiebel said. Hamilton is set to testify before the committee that such claims are “irresponsible.”
In a copy of her testimony, provided to the Forward ahead of the hearing, Hamilton said civil litigation in the United States has led to only two bankruptcies, both voluntary and intended “to protect assets and avoid trials that would have revealed the Roman Catholic bishop’s secrets regarding their role in endangering children.”
In her book, “Justice Denied,” Hamilton said there “should be no arbitrary and rigid time frame that permits the multimillionaire parent or wealthy institution that fostered the sex abuse to believe their assets are wholly protected from the victims they
destroyed.
“Certainly, no perpetrator or institution that aided that perpetrator should be secure in the knowledge that jail time and fines are beyond the survivor’s reach.”