Kathryn Robb’s mission: What is so difficult about passing a law to protect children from Predators?
Kathryn Robb, a sex abuse survivor, had a recurring nightmare when she was younger.
She opened up to her mother in the dream, revealing that her oldest brother would slip into her bedroom late at night and sexually abuse her. And then — still in the dream — her family’s Long Island home promptly burst into flames.
Robb, 56, says she doesn’t need Sigmund Freud to tell her that the dream represented inner turmoil. She was deeply traumatized by the years of sexual abuse, but she also feared that telling her parents would rip her family apart.
“The family, like the church, is a sacred institution,” Robb said. “That’s what makes it so hard to come forward.”
Robb, now a lawyer and victim advocate, has a meeting in Albany on Monday with Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) to discuss a bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations for pursuing criminal charges or filing lawsuits in child sex abuse cases.
Robb and two other child sex abuse survivors tried to meet with DeFrancisco on May 4, but he brushed them aside and instead attended a pizza party for the Syracuse University women’s basketball team.
Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Suffolk County) and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) declined sitdowns and will send staff members to meet with advocates instead.
Gov. Cuomo also opted not to meet with the sexual abuse survivors and will dispatch Assistant Counsel David Perino to meet with Robb and others.
Sen John DeFransico – Refused to meet with victims
Robb returns to Albany with her sister Dorothy Robb Farrell, 50, and other activists to lobby state lawmakers. The law bars victims from seeking criminal charges or pursuing civil litigation after their 23rd birthday.
The sisters say they were sexually abused by their brother George Robb, a former Wall Street mogul once married to supermodel Veronica Webb.
“If you slam the doors of justice on the victims of sexual abuse, you effectively allow predators to continue to rape and abuse children,” Kathryn Robb said. “The most important thing is exposing child predators.”
DeFrancisco has agreed to meet Monday with Robb and other supporters of the Child Victims Act, a bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Queens) and Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) that would eliminate the statute of limitations and give past victims a one-year window to file civil lawsuits against predators and institutions that cover up sexual abuse.
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DeFrancisco is opposed to the bill, but at least he agreed to a face-to-face meeting with sexual abuse survivors.
“How many perpetrators could have been identified if this legislation had been passed 10 years ago?” Robb Farrell said she will ask lawmakers. “How many kids have been victimized in the past 10 years because this bill wasn’t passed?”
Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D-S.I.) has a bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations for the prosecution of child sex abuse cases. It would also allow victims to file civil lawsuits until their 28th birthday, up from the current 23rd birthday. Cusick’s bill does not include a one-year window for victims whose time to seek recourse has run out under current law.
A third bill, sponsored by Hoylman and Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers), would do away with the criminal and civil statutes of limitations in child sex abuse cases and provide the one-year window for victims who under current law can no longer bring a civil case.
Their bill would also eliminate the 90-day requirement from the date of the incident to notify a public entity — like a school — of their intent to sue.
The current legislative session ends June 16.
More than a third of sexual abuse victims in the United States, like the sisters, are abused by family members, according to a 2010 report to Congress presented by the federal Health and Human Services Department.
“If you are abused by a coach, a priest or a Girl Scout leader, you can hopefully come home and tell Mommy or Daddy,” Robb Farrell said. “But what happens when you are already home?”
George Robb, the oldest boy in an affluent family of eight, did not return requests for comment from the Daily News. His sisters say he would sneak into their bedrooms in the middle of the night to abuse them.
Both women say the sexual abuse they endured for years led to depression, suicidal thoughts, eating issues and other problems decades later. The sisters say they were emotionally unable to tell their parents — never mind authorities — about the abuse until many years after it stopped.
Gov. Cuomo is flanked by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (left) and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan. The three are still sitting on sidelines in fight to reform child abuse laws.Gov. Cuomo is flanked by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (left) and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan. The three are still sitting on sidelines in fight to reform child abuse laws. (TIM ROSKE/AP)
“You can’t say anything because you feel like you are going to destroy your family,” Robb said. “I still have a hard time talking about it because I don’t want to hurt my mother.”
Robb and Robb Farrell sued their brother in Connecticut in 2008 because they both lived there at the time and the state’s statute of limitations was more favorable to sex abuse victims than New York’s, which victim advocates say ranks among the worst in the nation. The lawsuit was dismissed after a judge ruled her court lacked jurisdiction over their brother.
The legal setback hasn’t stopped the sisters from seeking protections for children.
Robb is an official with Massachusetts Citizens for Children, a group that helped persuade Bay State lawmakers to extend the statute of limitations there from three years to 35 years. Robb Farrell is a social worker who works with children in foster care.
Despite the recurring nightmare, Robb Farrell said her sister was lucky in one respect — she was able to sleep during those years when their brother was abusing her.
“I never slept,” she said. “So I never dreamed.”