A proposed bill weaving its way through the California legislature intends to extend the statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse. Under current California law, child sexual abuse survivors typically have until the age of 26 to file civil sexual abuse claims against a religious or civic institutions where the offender worked. However, a previous court ruling had prevented victims who turned 26 before 2003 and discovered the injuries or trauma associated with their abuse between 2005 and 2001. The new legislation, authored by Senator James Beall Jr., is intended to extend the statute of limitations to allow victims to pursue legal claims until the age of 43.
The bill – SB 131 – is designed to help the numerous victims who are willing to come forward about their abuses, but are otherwise prevented from doing so by strict limitations and laws. As the emotional and psychological nature of child sexual abuse can create profound barriers to reporting offenders, it often takes victims years before they realize the harm and trauma they’ve suffered and their ability to take a stand. With the new bill, claims Beall, these survivors will have their opportunity to find justice from a law that works by helping victims instead of protecting pedophiles and offenders who committed these crimes.
To stress this point, a former abuse victim and supporter of SB 131 came out to explain her story. As a victim of sexual abuse committed by an Orange County clergyman, she stated that it took her more than 15 years to heal from her injuries and fully understand what happened when she was younger. She also mentioned that for many victims, this process can take even longer.
While the measure has been approved by the Senate and the Assembly Judiciary Committee, it still faces opposition when it continues through the legislature. Most significantly, opposition comes from various religious and civic organizations that may face lawsuits from victims if the bill is signed into law. The California Catholic Conference (CCC) and organizations that include the YMCA / YWCA, Police Activities League (PAL), the California Council of Nonprofit Organizations (CCNO), and various religious and non-sectarian schools. Much of their opposition also stems from the fact that SB 131 will preserve the existing statute of limitation for victims of sexual abuse in public schools and local government agencies.
Although there is much debate, advocates are eager for SB 131 to pass, as it will expand the rights of abuse survivors and provide victims with the chance to achieve justice. At The Senators (Ret.) Firm, LLP, our California sexual abuse lawyers have been longtime proponents of victims’ rights. With our passion for guiding victims through their legal journeys, our experience, and our resources, we are capable of helping residents throughout the state obtain justice and compensation. Learn more about your rights and the ways in which our firm can help by contacting our firm today.