HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Friday was the deadline for the state legislature’s Judiciary Committee to vote on bill concepts. A last-ditch effort to add a bill to the agenda that would eliminate the civil statute of limitations for victims to file lawsuits in sex assault cases was voted down. The final vote 18 to 15 against the bill concept.
The committee heard emotional testimony from brave child sex abuse survivors. Ironically, two of their very own senators.
“Every day I look into the mirror, I look into the eyes of a victim,” Senator Gary Winfield, a survivor from New Haven, told the committee.
His colleague, Senator Gennaro Bizzarro, of New Britain, also had a story.
“The tremendous emotional burden that it takes on somebody who has gone through this…if you are not a victim you really can’t understand,” Bizzarro said.
Which is why it was devastating to learn members of the committee were unwilling to raise a bill to get rid of the civil statute of limitations on these crimes and make it retroactive.
“The emotion you saw in the room this morning is exactly why this bill should have been raised and given a public hearing,” said Senator Mae Flexer.
Bizzarro sat down with News 8 and said he’s suing the Archdiocese in New York. He said he is one of the thousands of kids who were allegedly molested by a former basketball coach who worked at Our Lady of Mount Carmel for decades.
“Just being able to be out there and be open about my situation is very cathartic,” Bizzarro said.
New York opened a one-year window for victims to come forward under the Child Victims Act.
Bizzarro took the opportunity and filed a lawsuit in December 2019.
He was supportive of giving Connecticut victims more time too. Bizzarro said it takes decades for survivors to cope with being victimized. In Connecticut, if you don’t come forward by the age of 51, the legal clock stops. Bizzarro said it’s a major flaw.
“To say to somebody, a person who is one year younger than you are, who had the same exact experience that you had…with the same exact predator can come forward and have a forum and talk about what happened to them and feel like they have been vindicated, but you can’t because you are a year older…that is so patently unfair.”
Bizzarro said with a solid support system he has been able to survive. He added that he’s grateful others are coming forward. Most importantly, he said is for society to root out predators to stop them from harming more innocent children.
His alleged molester died years ago. The civil case is still pending.
A State Sexual Assault Taskforce was set up in 2019. It made a unanimous recommendation to move forward with the bill.
Because the Judiciary Committee failed to raise the concept Connecticut will not become the second state in the nation to eliminate the statute of limitations in civil cases involving sexual assault, abuse, or exploitation. Twelve states made changes to their statute of limitations laws in the last year.