SB 131 Allows Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse to Seek Justice

Lawmakers say the bill corrects a Supreme Court case that, because the statute of limitations had been reached, denied a narrow group of child sex-abuse victims the right sue religious organizations, private and nonprofit groups that employed their abusers.

“If we didn’t do it, the law would still be invalid and the people would waiting on the legislature to see if we wanted to correct the law,” said Sen. Jim Beall.

Under the proposed law, victims over the age of 26 in 2003 will have a chance to file lawsuits during a one-year period.

On October 13, 2013 Governor Jerry Brown has refused to sign SB 131 into Californian law.

Brown studied to become a Catholic priest as a young man. This will doubtless fuel debate as to Brown’s motivations for turning down the bill. Kathleen Conti, a keen supporter of SB 131, expressed her sorrow this morning. “It is extremely disappointing that our Governor has allowed powerful deep-pocketed religious leaders, influential religious lobbyists and law firms to cloud the real issue here, which is the right of abuse victims to pursue justice for crimes committed against them,” she said. “Subpoenaed documents clearly show that certain religious institutions have been fully aware of the danger posed to children by pedophiles within their own ranks, but have kept things secret and handled matters internally instead of warning parents and letting the proper authorities handle perpetrators. I find it distressing that congregants will continue to not only attend but also financially support such morally bankrupt institutions who claim to have God’s blessing while at the same time being guilty of concealing crimes against children.”

On October 13, 2013 Governor Jerry Brown has refused to sign SB 131 into Californian law.

On October 13, 2013 Governor Jerry Brown has refused to sign SB 131 into Californian law.

Original story began April 16, 2013

SACRAMENTO – As Senators Jim Beall and Ricardo Lara spoke out Tuesday for legislation to eliminate the statute of limitations for survivors of childhood molestation to file damages against their abusers, traumatized victims voiced their support for SB 131 and told about their troubled lives and their anger over being unable to obtain justice against their perpetrators. “SB 131 is about justice for the victims of abuse, period,’’ said Beall, who is the bill’s author at a State Capitol news conference. “Victims of child sex abuse have a right to seek justice for the heinous acts that were perpetrated against them. “Current California law does not allow ample time for these victims to realize the mental and physical damage the abuse has caused, which prevents them from getting an opportunity at obtaining justice. . . . Evidence shows psychological injuries from sexual abuse can and do emerge later in life, well past age 26. Victims need to recover the costs of their treatment and therapy as well as on-going costs for continuing treatment.’’ Sen. Lara, co-author of the bill and himself a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, said SB 131 is needed “to ensure that kids and the families of victims have their day in court to get the restitution and the resources they need to lead healthy and better lives.’’ Existing law prevents victims of child sex abuse who are 26 years or older from civil damages justice for the acts committed against them. Under SB 131: •    The statute of limitations to file for damages is eliminated for victims who are 25 years old as of Jan. 1, 2014. •    For victims who are 26 as of Jan. 1, 2014, they will be able to file for damages until they are 48, or within five years from the date that a practicing physician or psychologist determines there is a connection between the victim’s psychological injuries and the abuse they suffered as a youth. •    Victims who are 48 or older as of Jan. 1, 2014, will have a one-year window to sue their abuser. Five adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse spoke on behalf of the SB 131, sharing their stories of how lives were terribly altered and how they have been denied a chance to even seek restitution.  Among them was Jancy Thompson, of San Jose, who told her story of abuse as a youth by her swim coach. “Because of the grossly premature age limit with our statute of limitation, none of us have the right to pursue justice,’’ Thompson said. “When I talk to people about the statute of limitation in California they are shocked that we have one. When I tell them what it is, they are outraged. “The people of California don’t really realize we are protecting pedophiles and organizations that have concealed their crimes for decades. . . . With SB 131, we have an opportunity to turn the tide of violence in California by taking a stand for the humane treatment of children.’’ SB 131 will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee. No hearing date has yet been scheduled. Contact: Rodney Foo, 408.558.1295

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