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Speed Skater Bridie Farrell Pushes Lawmakers To Pass Child Victims Act

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Former competitive speed skater Bridie Farrell is pushing lawmakers to pass a bill that would allow child sexual abuse victims to sue those responsible, even after the statute of limitations has expired.

Farrell, a one-time Olympic hopeful, says she was abused by a much older teammate when she was 15.

"There really has been no pleasant part of sharing my story," she told WCBS 880's Ethan Harp.

The long-debated measure, known as the Child Victims Act, would eliminate the civil and criminal statutes of limitations on abuse cases going forward. It also would create a one-time window, lasting a year, to allow for lawsuits no matter when the abuse is alleged to have occurred, basically giving a second chance to older cases in which the statutes of limitations have expired.

"I consider it nearly a perfect story – a lot of unfortunate news that's come out. But when we put that together, hopefully we can make a lot of progress," Farrell said.

New York now has one of the most restrictive statutes of limitations on child molestation in the country, along with states including Mississippi, Alabama and Michigan. Under current New York law, victims of child sexual abuse have until age 23 to pursue criminal charges or file lawsuits against their abusers.

Several other states including California, Minnesota, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Georgia have recently enacted laws to expand time frames for victims' lawsuits. Massachusetts gives victims up to 35 years to sue. Ohio and Pennsylvania give victims until age 30.

The New York bill has passed the Democratic-controlled Assembly and earned the backing of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo but hasn't received a vote in the Republican-led Senate. The Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts and other large institutions oppose the bill, arguing the provision allowing for lawsuits for decades could do devastating financial harm to any institution that works with children.

"It's just really an opportunity for them to have the opportunity to right some of the wrong they've done for years," said Farrell.

New York's Catholic Conference supports alternative legislation that would eliminate the criminal statute of limitations on child sex crimes, give victims until they are 28 to file civil suits and not create a window for molestation lawsuits now barred by the statute of limitations.

"We are open to any suggestion or any compromise that includes increasing or eliminating the criminal statute," conference spokesman Dennis Poust said.

Poust noted that the Archdiocese of New York has voluntarily set up a compensation program to help victims of clergy sexual abuse.

The bill's sponsor in the Senate, Democrat Brad Hoylman, said he expects the recent spate of allegations against Roy Moore, Harvey Weinstein and other men will influence the debate — if only because the cases show how it often takes years for victims, underage or not, to step forward and level accusations against men in positions of authority.

"National events have propelled this issue forward and serve as a rallying point," he said. "I'm more optimistic than ever that this session will be the breakthrough that we've been waiting for."

Lawmakers will convene for the 2018 session in early January.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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