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WEB EXTRA: Gov. Cuomo meets with survivors and 'Child Victims Act' advocates

January 28, 2019 02:27 PM

Gov. Cuomo speaks while meeting with survivors and 'Child Victims Act' advocates.

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You can read a transcript of the meeting below:

Governor Cuomo: Thank you all for being here. We've been having a chat about today. And in truth celebrating today. It's been a long, long time coming. We have literally been meeting and talking for years. Marci Hamilton, who has been the attorney for the group, has done an extraordinary job. She's been working with Alphonso and Melissa for many, many years. This issue, the Child Victims Act, we have put in the budget every year, we've made it a priority every year. And at the end of the day, we were foiled by the conservatives in the Senate. I don't even believe it was the moderates in the Senate, I believe it was the conservatives in the Senate who were threatened by the Catholic Church. And this went on for years.

 

And, first I want to start by applauding these victims slash advocates who went through a horrendous violation in life and an aggravated defilement because it was a person in authority, a person who was supposed to be respected. And then they come to government, they come to society for justice and for years they are denied. Which actually compounds the injustice because now it's a lack of admission. First thing people wanted, at least acknowledge what happened to me, and acknowledge that it was wrong, and make a statement that justice will be done, and it wasn't me and it wasn't my fault, and a wrong was done to me, and take responsibility. That's the first step in many ways is the acknowledging. And when government says "No, I'm not going to pass this bill," it's heard as, "I'm not going to acknowledge what you believe was the circumstance." And that actually aggravates it.

 

I remember we were talking about this issue, and for me I liken it to the marriage equality bill in a lot of ways. I used to say about the marriage equality bill, "Look, just so we're clear on this issue, for me it's about the second word not the first word." It's not about marriage. You make your own decision about marriage. For me, it's about equality. And it's the lack of equality that was galling and offensive about marriage equality. It was society's statement that we believe love between heterosexual couples is somehow more legitimate than love through a gay couple, et cetera. And that's what marriage equality was about, it was about that principle that you were not accepting, you were demeaning LGBTQ people and their love was not as legitimate as heterosexual love.

 

Child Victims Act, yes there's going to be court cases, and a lookback and a window, et cetera. But to me that's all a means to the end. The end was do justice, acknowledge this. Acknowledge the harm. Acknowledge that I was a victim. Acknowledge that the authority was abused. And it has taken us a number of years to get here, but we got here because of you and your tenacity. The delay, the delay, don't take personally. The conservatives in the Senate stopped a lot of socially progressive bills. And that's what you see passing now over these past few weeks. The Reproductive Health Act, they wouldn't pass. The Dream Act, they wouldn't pass. Voting rights, they wouldn't pass. Guns, gun safety, they wouldn't pass, which will be done tomorrow. Bail reform, criminal justice reform, they wouldn't pass. So these were just social progress issues that they philosophically, politically were opposed to. And now with a new election you see it's like pulling the cork and the dike has been released on these issues that everyone agreed, but were stymied by conservatives.

 

Interestingly, it's the exact opposite of what's going on in Washington, right? Every one of these issues, the conservatives in Washington are going one way, New York State is going the other way. We did Reproductive Health Act, they want to overturn Roe v. Wade. We're going to do gun safety, they're going to be 100 percent pro-Second Amendment. We said Dream Act for immigrants, they say build a wall. But, the Child Victims Act was only one of those.

 

I want to thank the Daily News, which I think has done the public an extraordinary service, the way they covered this and the way they stayed on this.

 

I want to thank my team, for Alphonso and for Melissa, I'm sure you felt this but it was personal for them. And these are two people who when an issue becomes personal, they are unstoppable. And they have a little bit of that sense of youth that I was talking about before, that they want it done tomorrow, and there is no rationalization for delay.

 

To the Catholic Church, I am, I am sorry about the situation. I'm not sorry about my position. I'm sorry they have taken the position they've taken. I'm a Roman Catholic. I have Catholic elementary school, Catholic high school, Jesuits in college. So, it is a difficult situation. As we were chatting my father found himself in the same situation. But on this issue, I'll tell you the truth, I don't think I'm against the Catholic Church. I think the Bishops may have a different position than the Pope, and I'm with the Pope. I quoted him at the State of the State. And Pope Francis could not be any clearer in his statement. I mean, he totally condemned the action.

 

And I associate myself with Pope Francis on this issue. And I am proud to maintain that position. But, to you, congratulations. You did it. You really did. And we all applaud you. You've done a service to the state. You've done a service to the thousands and thousands of victims who couldn't bring themselves to step up the way you have. With that, I turn it over to Marci Hamilton, counselor extraordinaire.

 

Marci Hamilton: Thank you, Governor. Good morning, I am Marci Hamilton and I'm a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the CEO of Child USA. This is a historic day in the state of New York and a long overdue victory for justice and well-deserved. The justice system turned its back on victims in the state of New York, one of the worst states in the country. And today, that's going to change. Republicans were the reason for blocking the legislation. It literally took a blue wave to do the right thing by victims in the state of New York. We were very, very fortunate in the state of New York to have the support of Governor Cuomo. He has been with us every step of the way. He has been an unwavering champion of the Child Victims Act. We can attest to that; we've had many meetings with him. Alphonso and Melissa have been amazing. And we are very grateful to them.

 

I work on these issues country wide. In fact, I work on these issues globally. Governor Cuomo is the only governor in the United States who has publicly supported statute of limitations reform for child sex abuse victims before it was passed. Others have signed these bills. But Governor Cuomo has put it in the forefront and kept it in the forefront. That makes him a different leader, and for victims, someone who is the best that they could possibly hope for. Thank you Governor Cuomo. Thank you for your leadership. In the end, this is about children in the state of New York. What we hope is we'll find out who the hidden predators are. We'll see the shift of the costs of the abuse to the ones who caused it. and we're finally delivering justice to the children and the victims in New York. Thanks.

 

Governor Cuomo: Well said, Marci. Well said. Steve?

 

Steve Jimenez: My name is Steve Jimenez. I'm a survivor and I'm also on the board of USA Advocacy and one of the co-founders with Marci and Kathryn of New Yorkers Against Hidden Predator. First of all, I just have to really thank the other colleagues and friends here at the table. We have been working together for a really, really long time. And at the end of the day I keep thinking, it really did take a village to get this bill passed. There are many different aspects of the coalitions and there are many activists and advocates who have been involved in this but it's something that could only happen together so I thank all of you, just really, from a very deep place.

 

When we first met with Governor Cuomo, he made a promise to us that he would see this through. And we felt the force of his conviction and he's right when he says you know, we were a little impatient with the delays. But he has been absolutely true to his promise that he would see that there would be a path to justice for survivors in New York State. So we thank you profoundly for that. And Alphonso and Melissa—just meeting with you and your insight and your guidance through this whole process has been amazing. We didn't have that anywhere else, so the fact that we were able to talk with you brought us to the place where this bill is finally happening so we thank you profoundly.

 

I just want to comment on one thing Governor Cuomo said about being Catholic. I was an altar boy. My abuse happened at a Catholic elementary school in Brooklyn but I was a really devout altar boy. I went to Georgetown University which is a Jesuit school. And I too consider myself to be a Catholic. And this has been, these last 12 years waging this battle, has been so difficult because there have been moments along the way where there have been suggestions that those of us fighting for this and there are a couple of others here at the table—Bob, Nancy, Beth, Tim, you know that we have been called anti-Catholic and nothing could be further from the truth. We have our very, very strong principles, moral and ethical principles and one of those things, one of those principles is truth. And truth is at the heart of this movement and so, you know, I just want to say that to the Cardinal and the Bishops, et cetera that I agree with the Governor that I will follow Pope Francis on this one.

 

Governor Cuomo: Thank you very much. Kathryn?

 

Kathryn Robb: Thank you Governor, Cuomo. Your leadership has been just amazing. It was always understood to me from the first time we met almost two and a half years ago at 666 that it was personal, that you saw our pain. You saw the justice that was needed, it was very clear that it was deeply felt by all of you and that gave us hope and in that meeting I do remember you talking about your father a lot and I want to share with you that my father adored your father. He talked about him all the time. And something that my father said to me that has stuck with me for a very long time, and really helped me through this movement, he said to me, "Kathryn, the right thing to do is very often the hardest thing to do, but you do it anyway." And I feel like that's what we have done. You can't get to justice without truth and you certainly helped us pave the way there, so I am eternally grateful. Thank you.

 

Governor Cuomo: Thank you, Kathryn. That was beautifully said. And I think your father is right, and I see that more and more clearly in this position. You can't get to a resolution without the truth and there are so many people and so many institutions that just don't want to hear the truth. They just don't want to hear it, they want to deny it ever happened, "it's unpleasant, it has bad consequences for me." But it starts with the truth and that's why it starts with you, because you can't get to the truth without people who are willing to come to the table and say, "this is what happened to me." That was the essential truth that you were willing to tell and that then became undeniable and the only questions was when truth would win. But truth will always win if you have the courage to state it and fight for it. Truth only loses when the institutions overwhelm it or people back away from the truth because it's too difficult. But you didn't do that. This does not happen but for you. Period. And I know how things get done in this building. As I said Kathryn, it's my room.

 

I just want to recall, because it's important for me, because to those of us who are Catholics, it's not a pleasant position to have the Catholic Church criticizing you, but Pope Francis gives me comfort on this issue. "The abuse of minors is an offense so brutal the Church cannot remain indifferent to this. And the Church must punish such priests, and that includes to support the legal action. There is no other way out of this because it is a crime, no, worse! It's leaving them alive, but destroyed." The only sin, I believe, greater than abusing a child would be protecting those who abuse a child. That's my view of Catholicism and truth and justice.

 

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Credits

WNYT Staff

Copyright 2019 WNYT-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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