More than 200 advocates for reform of the state’s statute of limitations on claims of child sexual abuse marched across the Brooklyn Bridge on Sunday, proudly proclaiming they were part of a new civil rights movement defending children.
The rain let up as the diverse group of marchers — including Matt Sandusky, stepson of notorious Penn State pervert Jerry Sandusky, and Phil Saviano, who was portrayed in the movie “Spotlight” — departed from Cadman Plaza in downtown Brooklyn.
“It is time to lift the shades, open the window and let justice and the protection of children shine through,” said Kathryn Robb, an abuse survivor and advocate.
Participants came from as far away as Ohio and Florida. Others hailed from Pennsylvania and New Jersey — where advocates are waging similar fights to reform those states’ statutes of limitations on child sex abuse claims.
In New York, a victim must bring criminal or civil charges prior to his or her 23rd birthday.
“We need to send a message. We need statute of limitations reform round the country. It is so important for people to understand who the law is protecting — the lobbyists and the church and not the children,” said Annette Nestler of Cape May County, N.J., who wore a broken screen window around her neck — a symbol of opening the window of opportunity for justice.
Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Queens), chief sponsor in the Assembly of the Child Victims Act, told advocates she decided to fight for reform because of a family member who was a victim of sexual abuse as a child.
“I truly believe I am doing the work of the Lord,” said Markey, who has been a Eucharistic minister and lector at her parish in Queens.
She first proposed legislation to reform the statute of limitations a decade ago. Her efforts have at times met with harsh resistance.
A candidate vying for her seat four years ago made robocalls saying she did not have “Catholic values,” Markey said.
Marchers were adamant that the reform include the so-called lookback, which would allow victims a window of time to revive claims previously barred by the current statute of limitations.
Francis Piderict, with the advocacy group Voice of the Faithful, said 300 abusers were identified in California after legislation was passed granting victims the right to sue.
“That is one of the biggest advantages of the window,” Piderict said.
“The window is nonnegotiable for us,” he added.
Joining the marchers were about 20 members of the Zulu Nation, which initially rallied in support of hip-hop legend Afrika Bambaataa when the Daily News reported on accusations he sexually abused young boys.
The Zulu Nation changed its tone last week and distanced itself from Bambaataa, who founded the group.
“We don’t tolerate the abuse of women and children in our communities,” said Rekae Medina, a member of the Zulu Nation.
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