At­tor­ney: Law won’t help the abused

The News-Times - - OBITUARIES - By Han­nah Dellinger

GREEN­WICH — The at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing a group of men who say they were sex­u­ally abused as chil­dren at the Green­wich Boys’ Club says new leg­is­la­tion to ex­pand the state’s civil statute of lim­i­ta­tions won’t do enough to en­able abuse sur­vivors to sue their at­tack­ers.

While many ad­vo­cates and sur­vivors of sex­ual abuse have cel­e­brated the re­cent land­mark pas­sage of an Act Com­bat­ting Sex­ual As­sault and Sex­ual Ha­rass­ment in both state houses, at­tor­ney Philip Rus­sell is urg­ing Gov. Ned La­mont to veto the bill.

“This poorly drafted re­form could ac­tu­ally work as a shield to pro­tect the per­sons and en­ti­ties who are legally re­spon­si­ble for the harm suf­fered by these vic­tims,” Rus­sell said in a state­ment this week. “I be­lieve that we can do more for vic­tims of sex­ual as­sault.”

Sec­tion 13 of the act ex­tends the statute of lim­i­ta­tions for child sex abuse vic­tims to file law­suits from age 48 to 51. Any sur­vivor of child sex­ual abuse born be­fore Oct. 1, 1968 who was abused be­fore Oct. 1, 1989 wouldn’t qual­ify for the new statute of lim­i­ta­tions, said Rus­sell in a let­ter he sent to the gov­er­nor. That means only six of the 12 men who have come for­ward with al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual abuse at the Green­wich Boys’ Club will still not be able to file civil claims against the or­ga­ni­za­tion, said Rus­sell.

“As writ­ten, Sec­tion 13 of the Act ap­pears to pro­tect a larger field of vic­tims,” Rus­sell said. “How­ever, it is our hope that you will veto this leg­is­la­tion be­cause the Act does not ac­com­mo­date many of the vic­tims whose suf­fer­ing prompted this re­form.”

Lucy Nolan, direc­tor of pol­icy and pub­lic re­la­tions for the Con­necti­cut Al­liance to End Sex­ual Vi­o­lence, was in­volved in the process of draft­ing the leg­is­la­tion. She said though ad­vo­cates didn’t get ev­ery­thing they ne­go­ti­ated for, the bill will bring many pos­i­tive changes in the le­gal sys­tem for count­less vic­tims.

“I have to say that I am ap­palled that this lawyer would advocate for the whole bill to be ve­toed since the look-back pe­riod isn’t in it,” Nolan said this week in re­sponse to Rus­sell’s let­ter. “I un­der­stand the needs of his clients to get some sort of clo­sure, but deny­ing it to so many oth­ers is not the way to go.”

Rus­sell cited the re­cent pas­sage of the New York Child Vic­tims Act, which in­cludes a one-year win­dow for any child sex abuse sur­vivor to file a claim, as an ex­am­ple Con­necti­cut should fol­low.

“Dur­ing this one-year win­dow, any per­son of any age is able to file a claim if they were sex­u­ally abused as a child in New York State,” Rus­sell’s let­ter reads. “The CVA con­tains a num­ber of ad­di­tional, laud­able mea­sures, which I be­lieve should be a model for Con­necti­cut.” Af­ter the pas­sage of the New York law, a flurry of vic­tims came for­ward with their own sto­ries of child sex­ual abuse. Be­cause of the law, mul­ti­ple law­suits have now been filed against the Madi­son Square Boys & Girls Club for its al­leged fail­ure to stop what some claim is the most pro­lific case of child sex abuse in the na­tion’s his­tory. Hun­dreds say they were sex­u­ally abused by Dr. Regi­nald Archibald, a “vol­un­teer pool doc­tor” at the club.

“Re­gret­tably, Con­necti­cut chose not to in­clude a sim­i­lar one-time, one-year look-back win­dow to ad­dress the gap between fil­ing a claim and the en­act­ment of the leg­is­la­tion ex­tend­ing the statute of lim­i­ta­tions,” said Rus­sell. “Con­se­quently, there is a large class of vic­tims who will re­main un­able to file a claim.”

Nolan said there was a look-back win­dow of 27 months in­cluded in the orig­i­nal bill when it came out of com­mit­tee.

“But that was quickly taken out, as many peo­ple had is­sues with it,” she said. “The bill would not have passed with the look-back pe­riod in it.”

Nolan said ad­vo­cates also gave up elim­i­nat­ing the statute of lim­i­ta­tions en­tirely, in­stead ex­tend­ing it to 20 years, so that the bill would pass.

In place of the look-back win­dow, Nolan said a stake­holder task force was cre­ated “to re­port back to the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee be­fore the session next Jan­uary.”

Many peo­ple are dis­ap­pointed that a look­back win­dow wasn’t in­cluded, Nolan said.

“I can’t tell you how many sur­vivors … that worked on this bill who are dis­ap­pointed that the look-back pe­riod didn’t re­main in the bill, but ap­pre­ci­ate that so many oth­ers will be helped and not placed in the po­si­tion they have been,” she said. “This bill is good and makes a huge dif­fer­ence to many sex­ual as­sault (and) abuse vic­tims. There is not one per­son who will have a dif­fer­ent out­come from the pas­sage of this bill, but so many oth­ers will be helped.”

A rep­re­sen­ta­tive for La­mont said Tues­day, “Our un­der­stand­ing is that ad­di­tional leg­is­la­tion is be­ing con­sid­ered that would amend the orig­i­nal bill. Gov. La­mont looks for­ward to re­view­ing the fi­nal bill once it passes.”

In the Green­wich case, doc­u­ments filed in the law­suit claim at least three adult em­ploy­ees at the club, in­clud­ing its direc­tor, ig­nored years of ram­pant sex­ual abuse by An­drew Atkin­son , who was an un­der­age coun­selor at the time.

In an in­ter­view with Green­wich Time, Atkin­son de­nied he ever hurt boys. Boys & Girls Clubs of Amer­ica de­nied Jeff Starcher, who is now un­der their di­rect employ, had any pre­vi­ous knowl­edge of the abuse, as the law­suit states.

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