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Survivors of Horace Mann Sex-Abuse Scandal Urge Extension of Statute of Limitations for Abuse Cases

Nov 4, 2015

In a new book about the decades-long sex-abuse scandal at the Horace Mann School in Riverdale, New York, the author identifies coaches, teachers and administrators accused of raping and assaulting scores of students over more than three decades.

Great is the Truth also names a former headmaster, a former chair of the school’s board of trustees, and other officials at the prestigious prep school who are alleged to have ignored and covered up complaints of abuse, the New York Daily News reports.

Author Amos Kamil criticizes New York legislators and policy makers for not extending the stringent statute of limitations that makes it nearly impossible for adult survivors of abuse to pursue criminal charges and civil litigation in New York. In 2012, Kamil, an investigative journalist, published an article in the New York Times Magazine that shone a spotlight on the Horace Mann abuse and cover-up.

After the 8,700-word article appeared, dozens of survivors banded together to seek justice and an acknowledgment of what they had endured. Their demands included an independent investigation into how nearly two dozen faculty members carried out rapes and sexual assaults on more than 60 students over three decades. The group sought assistance and compensation for the sexual abuse survivors, many of whom had struggled with depression and emotional damage years after they leaving Horace Mann, according to the Daily News.

The survivors urged the school to lobby New York lawmakers to change the statute of limitations so sexual abuse victims could seek legal redress. Victim advocates say New York is one of the worst states in the nation for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Victims have only five years from the time their abuse is reported to police, or until they turn 23 years old — whichever comes first — to file a lawsuit against their abusers and the institutions that employ the abusers. An attorney who specializes in sex abuse cases and has represented Horace Mann victims said the New York statute of limitations encourages institutions to do nothing until the time runs out, according to the Daily News.

Since 2006, state Assemblywoman Margaret Markey has been working to extend the statute of limitations to allow victims to report crimes until they reach age 28. Markey's Child Victims Act, would also give victims previously prevented from filing lawsuits by the statute of limitations a one-year window to file civil lawsuits, the Daily News reports. The bill has passed the Assembly but not the State Senate. The Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish groups oppose the legislation. Amos Kamil says the opposition arises from fear of a spate of lawsuits if the bill passes.

According to the book, Poly Prep paid nearly $10 million to 12 abuse survivors, and Penn State has paid nearly $60 million to 26 victims in the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Horace Mann paid abuse victims somewhere between 4 and 5 million dollars. Kamil says Horace Mann officials offered victims only a fraction of what they thought they deserved and they refused to investigate the decades of abuse. Many survivors refer to this as “retraumatization,” according to the Daily News.

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