Nikki Dubose says she won't give up on her fight make kids safer.
The 31-year-old model-turned-activist has already made a name for herself by speaking up about sexual assault. Now, though, she's taking the platform she's built and using it to try and change laws to protect children from sexual violence.
Her first stop? New York, where she's hoping to help push through The Omnibus Child Victims Act.
"In New York, they have the worst laws in the entire nation as far as protecting children from sexual abuse," DuBose told A Plus. "There is only a five-year window after you're 18 years old that someone can report what has happened to them."
The Child Victims Act would eliminate New York's current statute of limitations for child sexual abuse in criminal and civil court, which currently require that you report what happened to you within five years of turning 18. If someone is abused at an public institution like a school in New York, their window is even shorter, as they are required to file a notice of intent to sue within 90 days of the incident.
Versions of the bill also propose a "lookback" period, giving people a one-year window after the bill passes to revive old cases.
"When a child is traumatized, they don't remember," DuBose said. "The average reported time it takes a child to come forward is 21 years. In my case, it took me 19 years. So children are helpless, they are powerless, they don't have voices the same way adults have voices."
While this is the eleventh year a version of the bill has been proposed, DuBose and her team of supporters — including the Stop Abuse Campaign, the Fighting for the Children political action committee, State Senator Brad Hoylman and assembly member Linda Rosenthal — are optimistic because they've got the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Opposition to the bill has come from insurance companies, the Catholic Church, Jewish and religious organizations, and some schools. New York's Catholic Conference, which is led by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, argues that opening a one-year lookback window could "bankrupt" the church with lawsuits, and they have spent more than $2 million lobbying against the bill, according to the New York Daily News.
If the bill were to pass, it'd have a massive affect on the children of New York. Some New York-based organizations estimate 43,000 New York children will be sexually abused in 2017 alone.
"That's a crisis, it's sad, it's horrendous," DuBose said. "I can tell you from my own personal experience, what happens to you when you are sexually abused is that it transfers into every area of your life: emotionally, mentally, financially, obviously physically… it inhibits from you from having a normal, healthy life."
DuBose stressed that the bill wouldn't just help the kids of today and tomorrow, but it'd set more New York children up for success down the road. Sexual abuse survivors are more prone to drug use, criminal behavior and financial trouble. Giving people a way to seek justice for the crimes against them could be a major step in helping survivors put their life back together after trauma.
"It's common sense, and sometimes in the legislature it seems that the most common sense bills are the ones that don't get passed," DuBose said. "It takes fighting tooth and nail to get them passed, so I want to get them changed and I will fight until the death to get them changed."
Cover photo via Russell Elloway.