Marissa Hoechstetter + Ambra Gutierrez Respond to Linda Fairstein Story, Push Adult Survivors Act
Manhattan DA candidate Alvin Bragg joins fight for pathway to justice for survivors of sexual abuse
NEW YORK, NY (05/07/2021) (readMedia)-- On Friday, Marissa Hoechstetter and Ambra Battilana-Gutierrez joined with Manhattan DA Candidate Alvin Bragg, Attorney Carrie Goldberg and Alison Turkos to push for justice for survivors who were failed by the Manhattan District Attorney's office. The Huffington Post reported yesterday that Linda Fairstein, the famed former New York City sex crimes prosecutor, maintained a close relationship with her successor Martha Bashford and weighed in on ongoing cases, including Harvey Weinstein's. The HuffPo story details how Fairstein primed Bashford for her interview with Ambra in which she asked a victim of a sex crime if she'd ever been a prostitute. Weinstein was subsequently never charged for the assault against Ambra, despite the fact that she had audio recordings of him admitting to the assault on tape.
The group connected the failure of the DA to the need for the New York State Legislature to pass the Adult Survivors Act (ASA). This critically important legislation would create a one-year window to allow individuals who were sexually assaulted as adults to sue their abusers and negligent institutions in court, no matter how long ago the abuse took place. The ASA's one-year window is similar to the lookback period under the Child Victims Act, which has to date allowed over 5,000 survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file civil lawsuits. The bill was just added last night to the priority list for the NYS Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by co-sponsor Brad Hoylman.
"This story illustrates what survivors already know -- that there is a two-tiered system of justice in Manhattan where the privileged wield their influence to benefit the powerful accused of wrong-doing. Cy Vance has allowed those women directly charged with overseeing the sex crimes unit to brazenly disrespect and discard survivors who turn to them for help. It should never be the responsibility of survivors to beg, plead, and demand justice from a DA who has already stacked the deck against us. It's why we need the Adult Survivors Act now. We need to put the power back in the hands of survivors and show them that they matter," said Marissa Hoechstetter.
"When Harvey Weinstein assaulted me, I was a 22-year-old immigrant with limited English and no fancy lawyers to help me. Harvey Weinstein hired the former sex crimes prosecutor Linda Fairstein, who was influencing Martha Bashford to do what she did. Instead of receiving help, I was interrogated as though I was a criminal and not the victim. This story only confirms the suspicions I had at the time. Even when we do everything we're 'supposed' to do like I did, the system works against you as a survivor. Lawmakers need to pass the Adult Survivors Act now, so that survivors who've been screwed over like me have a shot at justice," said Ambra Battilana-Gutierrez.
"For far too long, sexual assault survivors have been denied justice and accountability by an unfair, too short statute of limitations. Now we learn that justice was further blocked by a sex crimes unit in the Manhattan DA's office that was providing special access to Linda Fairstein. We can't have one system for the wealthy and well connected, and another for everyone else. Survivors deserve a fair process, free of privileged access, and a much needed chance to hold their abusers accountable. I urge passage of the Adult Survivor Act to deliver justice for all," said Alvin Bragg, candidate for Manhattan DA.
About the ASA
The ASA - (A.648 Rosenthal/S.66 Hoylman) - is the next important step that the New York State legislature must take to reform the State's long-outdated statute of limitations for survivors of sexual violence. Modeled on the Child Victims Act, the ASA would provide a one-year lookback window to survivors who were abused when they were 18 years old or over. If passed, adult survivors would have one year in which to file a civil claim -- no matter how long ago the abuse happened -- even if the statute of limitations has expired.
Recognizing that the constrained time limits in NY's statutes were not in line with what experts understand about trauma, the legislature in 2019 passed the CVA, which has allowed over 5,000 survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file civil lawsuits to date. That same year, the Legislature extended the civil and criminal statute of limitations for several felony offenses -- including extending the civil statute of limitations for Rape in the second and third degrees prospectively up to 20 years. However, the law does not apply retroactively, meaning that certain survivors who were abused prior to 2019, still have only between 1-5 years to file a civil lawsuit.
The ASA applies to Article 130 crimes, including Rape 2 and 3, criminal sex acts, among others and incest offenses in Section 255. Just like the Child Victims Act, the ASA would also waive the 90 day notice of claim requirement to bring a case against a public institution.
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 failed to get a resolution in the criminal justice system the ASA provides a further pathway to justice.
The ASA will create new paths to justice for survivors who were denied access to our courts because of an artificially narrow statute of limitations. The bill will give all survivors, including people who were formerly incarcerated, individuals abused by an intimate partner, and disabled survivors, a much needed chance to hold their abusers accountable.