Saratogian Bridie Farrell knows what it’s like to suffer in silence. Farrell, who was just 15 years old when she alleges she was sexually abused by a 33-year-old speedskating teammate in Saratoga Springs, struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts for 15 years before going public about it.
Farrell’s story made national headlines in 2013, and four years into talking about it publicly, reliving the pain every step of the way, she turned her powerful message into her life’s work. She is now the president and CEO of America Loves Kids, an organization she co-founded that provides advocacy for child sexual abuse survivors and has lobbied at both the state and federal level to get comprehensive child sexual abuse laws passed. One such bill was New York State’s Child Victims Act (CVA), which Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law in 2019. It changed the statute of limitations for future cases filed by child sexual abuse victims, ages 18 for criminal suits and 55 for civil suits. That amount of time survivors have had to file suits has since been extended twice, with CVA victims now able to file suits until August 21, 2021. In fact, its passage helped Farrell file her own civil suit against her alleged abuser this past July.
However, for many victims, it’s not as easy as simply lawyering up and filing a suit against an alleged abuser. For example, those abused by priests in New York State diocese have had to weather entire Catholic diocese—like that of Rockville Centre on Long Island, which serves about 1.5 million parishioners—filing for bankruptcy, which basically protects its churches from future lawsuits and potentially reduces the compensation victims might receive in settlements.
Farrell tells Saratoga Living that the same situation is taking place for sexual abuse survivors seeking to file claims against the Boy Scouts of America, which filed for bankruptcy this past February, following a flurry of sexual abuse lawsuits—including one filed against the organization for alleged abuse at the former Milton “Boyhaven” site in the Capital Region. Because the organization filed for bankruptcy, victims now only have until November 16 at 5pm—just under two weeks—to file a claim. Victims can seek compensation for their alleged abuse, whether or not they ever filed a lawsuit against the Boy Scouts in the first place, got a settlement or reported an abuser. Once a victim files a claim, he will have to seek counsel from one of a number of law practices that represents child sexual abuse victims (Farrell says survivors can find more information about this on her website).
In regards to the Boy Scouts, Farrell fears that there are many more victims in the Capital Region and beyond, who will never get the closure or compensation they deserve. “It’s sometimes harder for men to come forward,” says Farrell, and she’s right; according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), men tend to have a more difficult time coming forward with allegations of abuse, because the admission, at least based on public perception and stereotyping, might call into question their masculinity or sexuality. Men, who experienced abuse as children, might also be married with children of their own. Certainly, the numbers speak volumes: one in six boys is sexually abused before the age of 18.
If you are a former Boy Scout, who was the victim of child sexual abuse during your time with the organization, you can file a claim here.