Survivors of Harassment + Assault Demand Accountability from Power
Lindsey Boylan, Ambra Gutierrez, Marissa Hoechstetter, the Sexual Harassment Working Group and others rally for survivor rights agenda
On Friday, survivors of sexual harassment and assault, including Lindsey Boylan, Ambra Battilana-Gutierrez, Marissa Hoechstetter, and Alison Turkos, joined the Model Alliance, the Sexual Harrassment Working Group and lawmakers to press for accountability. The survivor-advocates - many of whom were abused by powerful men including Harvey Weinstein, Robert Hadden, Andrew Cuomo, and other former New York State legislators and appointed officials - addressed the current crisis and pushed a legislative agenda that centers justice for survivors.
Legislative priorities include: the Adult Survivors Act, and a host of anti-harassment laws, such as the "license to harass," a loophole in law that exempts the personal staff of elected officials from the same protections as other employees in New York State.
"Sexual harassment and assault are pervasive problems in New York's modeling industry," said Sara Ziff, the founder and executive director of the Model Alliance. "Many survivors are time-barred from seeking justice and, in some cases, their abusers are still in positions of power that allow the cycle of abuse to continue. No matter how long ago the abuse happened, all survivors deserve a chance at justice. That's why we support the Adult Survivors Act."
"I'm proud to be standing with these courageous survivors today and will fight alongside them for a Survivors' Rights Agenda that holds people who abuse their power accountable, no matter who the offender is," said Lindsey Boylan, an urban planner and progressive Democrat running for Manhattan Borough President. "We need our lawmakers to send the message to survivors across this state that they matter and that their voices matter. I'm honored to be here and I will always use any platform I have to elevate the voices of survivors and all those who have been marginalized, oppressed, silenced or left behind by people who abuse their power."
"People tell us that we are "brave" for speaking about the abuse we experienced and its lasting effects on our lives. But it is not bravery. It is survival. As survivors, we faced our abusers. We continue to work to help institutions understand the damage they perpetuate by keeping abusers in power by systematically re-traumatizing victims, often at tremendous personal and financial costs. Today, we again remind those in government that abusing their power abuses the people they are meant to serve. We speak to regain our own dignity and to prevent others from the mistreatment that we endured. We will not enable those in power to escape accountability at victims' expense, and we have crafted legal changes needed for a just New York. Today, we ask legislators to hold their nerve and to face power abusers as we have. We ask every single legislator to choose the side of the survivors, not perpetrators," said the Sexual Harassment Working Group.
"It is time for laws to come in line with our modern understanding of sexual violence. By supporting a Survivor Rights' Agenda and the Adult Survivors Act, lawmakers have a chance to show survivors that what happened to us matters. Far too often abusers and enabling institutions lack the moral courage to do what is right and commit to meaningful change. Instead they deceive and evade taking responsibility for the harm they caused. This has to end so that we can heal," said Marissa Hoechstetter.
"We need the ASA because often survivors need years, or even decades, to process abuse and reach the physical and psychological safety to address it. By that time, many claims are outside of the statute of limitations and therefore victims are unable to pursue the closure they deserve. But there MUST be accountability and consequences for abuse and a pathway to justice for victims. The purpose of our courts is to take money from wrongdoers and give it to injured parties. Money doesn't take away memories but it can make life more comfortable for victims, and show perpetrators (and those institutions and individuals that enable them) that they will be held accountable," said Carrie Goldberg, Victims' Rights Firm C.A. Goldberg, PLLC.
Sen. Brad Hoylman said: "There's no question that our system continues to fail the survivors of sexual assault and harassment. We need legislation that centers survivors and empowers them so we can hold their abusers to account. That's why I introduced the Adult Survivors Act with Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal to ensure that sexual assault survivors can have their day in court. I am proud to stand with these brave advocates as we push for a more equitable and just system of laws to protect survivors of these horrific crimes."
"We must be clear that sexual harassment and sexual abuse are about control and power," Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou said. "There are women still working in the governor's office who he has hurt with his pattern of abuse. I believe women, and I stand with those who have come forward to shed light on the harassment and misconduct they endured. We must change this harmful and toxic work environment that is so pervasive in Albany."
"Albany has long been a place that silences victims who come forward and sweeps serious allegations of sexual misconduct under the rug. Transforming our workplace culture will take time –– but by passing legislation that centers the needs of survivors and expands protections for workers we can continue to move the needle. I am grateful and proud to work alongside the Sexual Harassment Working Group to advance our laws around workplace harassment and discrimination," said Senator Alessandra Biaggi.
"New York women and survivors of sexual harassment deserve fair treatment free from coercive NDA's and liquidated damanges clauses regardless of where they work or who they work for," said Assemblywoman Rozic (D,WF-Queens). "We cannot allow the legislature or any public office to be a place of unchecked workplace harassment. Every allegation of misconduct must be taken seriously and we need to strengthen legal protections for survivors and close loopholes used to silence victims to demonstrate that power and holding political office does not provide exemption from the law."
"Although we have made some recent progress in improving New York's anti-harassment laws, there is more work to do. There are still plenty of examples in the headlines of powerful men who have abused or harassed others, and they should not continue be able to evade accountability for their wrongdoing. It's time for us to close up legal loopholes and provide survivors more time to seek justice," said Senator John Liu.
"I believe survivors. The serious allegations made against Governor Cuomo and other powerful men by a group of courageous women are not only egregious, but remind us of the toxic environment that continues to affect too many women in the workplace," said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. "If we want to eradicate such behavior from all working environments and support survivors, we must act firmly to hold those who mistreat others and abuse their power accountable. We must also push and support legislative efforts that will secure justice for survivors."
About the ASA
The ASA - (A.648 Rosenthal)/S.66 (Hoylman) - is modeled on the Child Victims Act, providing 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.
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.
In 2019, recognizing that the statute of limitations were artificially low and not in line with what experts understand about trauma, lawmakers voted to extend civil statute of limitations for the several felony offenses including Rape in the second and third degrees prospectively to 20 years. However, the law does not apply retroactively, meaning that certain survivors who were abused prior to 2019, still have only between 1-3 years to file a civil lawsuit.
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 pathway to justice.
The ASA 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.
About the SHWG Agenda
A2483A(Niou)/S3395(Gounardes): Includes New York State and all public employers as employers subject to the provisions of the human rights law. This bill eliminates the "license to harass" by codifying that under the New York State HumanRights Law, staff of elected and appointed officials are employees of the governmental entity(ies) for which they work, whether it is New York State, or a city, county or municipality.
A5825(Cruz)/S1096(Liu): Ensures that legislative and judicial staff who report violations of law or other improper conduct are not retaliated against or subject to disciplinary action.
A5580(Rozic)/S738(Biaggi): Prevents sexual harassment or discrimination settlement agreements fromincluding provisions that force victims to pay a specified amount in damages upon their violation of a non-disclosure agreement
A233(Rosenthal)/S849(Gounardes): Extends the statute of limitations for harassment lawsuits to six years. Currently, survivors have only three years to file a claim in court. However, processing trauma and choosing to proceed in a formal and/or public way is not realistic, hinders survivors, and protects abusive employers.
A2079(Cruz)/S766(Gounardes): Bans "no-rehire" clauses in workplace settlement agreements. This bill protects survivors from victim-punishment by ensuring that victims do not have to choose between moving on with their life with a settlement and losing a job to which they are qualified.
A5431(Cruz)/S1059(Liu): Requires people registered as lobbyists with New York State to take annual online anti-sexual harassment training.
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