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California lawmakers support extension for suits by abuse victims

June 19, 2013|By Patrick McGreevy
  • Sexual-abuse victim Joelle Casteix speaks out at the 2005 news conference as Bishop Tod Brown from the Orange Diocese looks on during the announcement of a settlement between the diocese and 87 alleged victims of childhood sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
Sexual-abuse victim Joelle Casteix speaks out at the 2005 news conference… (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles…)

Survivors of child molestation would have more time to file lawsuits against institutions that employed their abusers under a proposal making its way through the California Legislature.

Currently, most victims can file lawsuits against religious or civic institutions that employed their abusers until they turn age 26. But a court ruling prevented such suits by people who turned 26 before 2003 and discovered between 2005 and 2011 that the molestation caused injury or trauma.

The legislation by state Sen. James Beall Jr. (D-San Jose) would extend the statute of limitations for those victims.

“We are seeing adults who were molested when they were children coming forward but unable to bring their abusers to justice because of the existing statute of limitations,’’ Beall said in a statement.

In some cases, people don’t learn they were child abuse victims until they are older. In other cases, they may know they were abused, but a mental health person may not diagnose psychological injuries linked to the abuse, warranting a lawsuit seeking damages, until they are an adult, officials said.

“They just want their day in court,” Beall said. “I believe these survivors deserve that opportunity because the law should work to help the victims instead of protecting the pedophiles who sexually exploited them.’’

SB 131’s supporters include Joelle Casteix, an Orange County woman who said she was abused as a minor by a clergyman.

“It took me more than 15 years to heal from the injuries and to understand that what happened to me was not my fault,” Casteix said. “For most victims, it takes longer,”

The measure has been approved by the Senate and this week was passed by the Assembly Judiciary Committee, which sent it to a panel on appropriations.


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