If state legislators don't want to extend the statute of limitations on sex crimes, then let them volunteer to put their child or grandchild in a room with Louis VanWie.
VanWie will be getting out of prison at the end of the month after serving 20 years for sexually abusing three children.
He actually admitted to abusing more than 300 children from the 1960s until his conviction in 1996. But because of short statutes of limitations on sex crimes in New York, only three of his victims were allowed to press charges.
Had the law allowed prosecutors to charge him with sodomizing and sexually abusing more children, he'd likely have not been able to abuse as many children as he did. And he'd likely be in prison the rest of his miserable life, unable to take advantage of the state's early-release laws and unable to prey on more children.
Instead, just four days after Christmas, he'll be out walking around our streets again. Maybe he'll be working in a fast-food restaurant or as a volunteer somewhere. More likely, the 74-year-old — who was denied parole fi ve times — will just be lying around all day, waiting for the next wave of urges to overcome him.
And then he'll strike again.
So here's a question for those state lawmakers who won't support legislation giving child victims of sex crimes more time to come forward: Can you live with that?
New York has some of the most lenient statutes of limitations in the country for child sex crimes. The Legislature has several bills to consider that would alleviate the situation.
One, the Omnibus Child Victims Act, (A9877/ S7296), would eliminate the state’s statute of limitations for child sexual abuse in criminal and civil court. It also would give adult victims one year to sue their abusers and the institutions that facilitated their abuse. In New York, victims lose their right to take criminal or civil action when they reach age 23.
But if you're abused as an adolescent, and it takes you all of those 21 years to muster the courage come forward, you'll have lost not only your right to recover civil damages, but more importantly you'll have lost the ability to prevent people like Louis VanWie from committing more crimes and from being punished for their crimes.
According to the website, ProtectNYKids.org, survivors of child sexual abuse need an average of 21 years before they can come forward. That's in large part because they repress the memories, or they act out of fear of their abuser or out of fear of coming forward.
One of VanWie's victims, interviewed recently by The Record in Troy, said VanWie threatened to kill the then-8-year-old's parents if he spoke about the abuse. That kind of thing happens to child victims all the time.
That's why this bill — or others like it that provide victims with more time to come forward and law enforcement with more time to bring charges — must be passed during this legislative session.
Legislators need to be less concerned this upcoming session about giving themselves a pay raise and more concerned about ensuring that people like Louis VanWie stop getting away with destroying our children's lives.