Evelyn Yang + Marissa Hoechestter, Safe Horizon to NY Lawmakers: "Stay in Remote Session to Pass the ASA"
Hadden survivors release letter to Gov + NYS Leg calling for justice for adult survivors of sex abuse
NEW YORK, NY (04/20/2020) (readMedia)-- Today, Marissa Hoechstetter and Evelyn Yang, with Safe Horizon, Senator Brad Hoylman, and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal held a press conference calling on the Legislature to stay in remote sesion to pass the Adult Survivors Act (ASA): legislation that would provide a one year look back window for any survivor (18+) of sexual abuse to sue their abuser in civil court, even if the statute of limitations has expired.
Evelyn Yang and Marissa Hoechstetter, survivors of sexual abuse by former OB-GYN Robert Hadden, released a letter to Governor Cuomo, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, and Speaker Heastie urging them to prioritize the Adult Survivors Act this session. The Manhattan DA announced in February that he was reopening the criminal case against Hadden, but that will not provide justice for the vast majority of his victims because they have aged out of the statute of limitations to bring criminal charges. The ASA would give survivors a pathway to justice in civil court.
READ the letter attached and LISTEN to the press conference.
"The Adult Survivors Act will let survivors name their abusers in court and access justice on their own terms. After sharing my story, the outpouring of support I've received from strangers and other survivors reaching out to say 'me too' has made it crystal clear that when we speak out we can change the world. But we need to change the laws too. New York lawmakers should stay in remote session to address the many issues left on the table requiring action, including crisis relief, housing, voting and assault survivors rights. The pandemic is no time for our state leadership to stop leading," said Evelyn Yang.
"If and when someone chooses to come forward, their pathway to justice should not be time barred or limited to results from a fraught criminal justice system. Lawmakers must stay in remote session and provide all survivors a chance to access justice on our own terms. The least they can do for survivors of sexual assault is provide an opportunity to be heard in their own time," said Marissa Hoechstetter.
The ASA is modeled after the Child Victims Act which passed the Legislature and was signed into law last year, allowing survivors of childhood sexual abuse with expired claims one year to sue in civil court. Eight months into the window, over 1,800 claims have already been filed through the Child Victims Act.
"Eight months since the child victims act look back window opened, 1800 survivors of child sex abuse have filed claims against their abuser in civil court. Look back windows work. Now it's time for adult survivors to have the same access to justice. New York lawmakers must stay in remote session and prioritize the Adult Survivors Act," said Michael Polenberg, Vice President of Government Affairs for Safe Horizon.
The ASA would apply to survivors who were abused under Article 130 crimes, which includes rape 2 and 3, criminal sex acts, among others and incest offenses in Section 255. Last year, Albany lawmakers, recognizing that the statute of limitations were artificially low and not in line with what experts understand about trauma, voted to extend civil statute of limitations for the several felony offenses including rape in the second and third degrees prospectively to 20 years. But for many adult sexual assault survivors who were abused prior to 2019, had only between 1-3 years to file a civil lawsuit. The ASA would provide a pathway to justice for time-barred survivors. Similar to the Child Victims Act, the ASA would also waive the 90 day notice of claim requirement to bring a case against a public institution.
Hoylman and Rosenthal both sponsored the Child Victims Act, which enacted long-awaited statute of limitation reform - both prospectively and retrospectively -- for survivors of child sexual abuse.
"For decades, New York's laws failed survivors of sexual assault. Prohibitively short statutes of limitations meant serial predators like Jeffrey Epstein and Harvey Weinstein were able to abuse hundreds of women with barely any consequences. The Adult Survivors Act I sponsor with Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal would finally hold these abusers accountable for crimes committed against legal adults," said State Senator Brad Hoylman. "While the #MeToo movement inspired an immediate cultural shift, progress in our legal system takes a bit longer. Since we announced the bill in 2019, countless brave women like Evelyn Yang, Ambra Gutierrez and Teresa Helm have come forward to share how this bill would help them seek justice against the men who abused them. They courageously put everything on the line to seek justice-we can't abandon these brave women in the middle of a pandemic. The state legislative session is not scheduled to conclude until June of this year. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, whose bold leadership was instrumental to passing the Child Victims Act last year, has made it clear that the New York State Legislature will continue working. Over the next few months, I am committed to redoubling my efforts with Assemblymember Rosenthal to pass the Adult Survivors Act and seek justice for all survivors."
"The pain and suffering that survivors of sexual assault feel doesn't rest, and neither should we. As the sponsor of the Adult Survivors Act, which would open a Child Victims Act-style lookback window for survivors who were sexually assaulted after the age of 18, it is clear that this bill is a critical justice reform that we must act upon. Survivors have been met with obstacle after obstacle on their path to justice. When society isn't victim-blaming and -shaming, it's erecting legal barriers that make it difficult for many to come forward. Now, survivors are being told once again they have to wait. The time to wait has passed. Survivors have been silenced for too long. Now that they are ready to speak, we have an obligation to listen and respond. I look forward to returning to session and passing the Adult Survivors Act this year," said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan).
New Jersey is the only state that has ever provided a look back window for adult survivors.
According to the science of trauma, it can take survivors years -- even decades -- to process sexual abuse. When those survivors are ready to come forward, it may be too late due to restrictive statute of limitations on sex crimes. For some survivors who may have reported within the statute of limitation, but fail to get a resolution in the criminal justice system the ASA provides a further pathways to justice. Especially for certain vulnerable populations, like those formerly incarcerated, individuals abused by an intimate partner, and disabled survivors, the ASA would give them a much needed chance to hold their abusers accountable.
TEXT OF LETTER:
April 20, 2020
To Governor Cuomo, Speaker Heastie and Majority Leader Stewart Cousins,
More than one-hundred survivors have come forward to report sexual exploitation and abuse by the former OB-GYN Robert Hadden. As two of these women who've spoken publicly about the abuse we endured, we feel obligated to speak for the others who cannot. We write to urge you to stay in remote session and pass the Adult Survivors Act (S.681/A.8726)--this session. This legislation will allow time-barred adult survivors of sex abuse of any age one year to sue in civil court.
The Adult Survivors Act is modeled after the Child Victims Act (CVA) look back window which passed last year under your leadership. We are only roughly eight months into the CVA window and close to 2,000 survivors of childhood sexual abuse have brought claims against their abusers and the institutions that enabled the abuse. This is a well-deserved victory for survivors, who have fought far too long for a simple pathway to justice.
With the CVA you recognized that those who suffered sexual assault need more time. All of Hadden's survivors deserve this time too. The abuse perpetrated by Hadden occurred over the course of two-decades, was known to be happening by Hadden's supervisors and employer, and is believed to have happened to upwards of a thousand patients. We know that many more victims are out there. Simply put, Robert Hadden is one of the most prolific serial sexual predators in the history of New York.
Many of us were abused in our adulthood while we were pregnant, taken advantage of by a doctor we trusted to care for our bodies and our unborn children. Under the guise of OB-GYN care, Hadden performed medically unnecessary examinations, digitally penetrated us, licked our genitals, molested us vaginally and anally, and more, all under the cover of medical expertise. Roughly eight years ago, many of us gathered the courage to report the abuse to the authorities and file criminal complaints. We did everything the Manhattan District Attorney told us to do: we gathered evidence, we gave grand jury testimony, we procured a criminal indictment, and we worked hand in hand with law enforcement every step of the way. Three years later, instead of bringing the case to trial, the District Attorney offered our abuser a plea deal that merely allowed Hadden to surrender his medical license in exchange for a promise of no jail time and immunity from further criminal prosecution for crimes known to law enforcement. He essentially retired early.
Since then, several of us have spoken out publicly causing over 100 other women to come forward. A letter from 1994 recently surfaced that definitively proves that Hadden's employer, Columbia University, knew that Hadden was sexually abusing female patients and allowed him to continue seeing patients for decades. In response to the discovery of this letter, the Manhattan District Attorney announced in February that they're opening a new criminal case against Hadden. However, due to his initial plea bargain this new case would still exclude many of the women who came forward. The ASA would not guarantee all of us justice in civil court but it would at least guarantee all of us our day in court if we choose.
We are not asking the legislature to make any decision on the merits of cases. Instead, we are simply requesting access to the courthouse so that adult victims of sexual abuse have the opportunity to prove their cases in court. Passing the Adult Survivors Act is necessary to allow survivors who have been failed by the criminal justice system to have a way to hold abusers like Hadden accountable. As evidenced by the majority of CVA cases, civil cases can also identify serial abusers, helping to prevent future assaults and opening up discovery, which is particularly relevant to hold institutions accountable. It is critical to not only bring sexual predators into the light but the institutions that enable them as well.
The Adult Survivors Act won't undo the indignities and abuse we've already suffered at the hands of our abusers, by the institutions that cover it up, or by the criminal justice system that too often fails survivors. But it will give us a chance for justice on our own terms. We deserve at least that, and much much more. Like most Americans, many survivors of sexual assault now are quarantined in their homes. Some are alone and vulnerable. Some are trapped with their abusers. We have seen an uptick in calls to survivors' counseling hotlines.
In this moment it is important for our lawmakers to demonstrate their commitment to both survivors and to fulfilling their obligations to us as elected officials. The pandemic is no time not to do your jobs as our representatives. If anything, your voice is more important than ever and your constituents are depending on you to rise to the occasion. There are many issues on your table that require action. For us as survivors, we ask that you please do not delay this step in our healing journey, and pave the way for others' healing through your leadership.