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Bill expanding child abuse victims' rights to sue heads to governor

September 06, 2013|By Patrick McGreevy

SACRAMENTO -- The Senate approved a measure Friday that would make it easier for some child abuse victims to sue private or nonprofit employers for failing to protect them from molesters.

The bill, which is opposed by the Catholic Church, squeaked by on a 21-8 vote and now heads to the governor. The bill would allow some child abuse victims more time to file lawsuits against private institutions such as parochial schools, but would not apply to public schools. Some victims for whom the statute of limitations has expired would get a new one-year window during which they could bring a lawsuit.

Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) disclosed during the floor debate that he was a victim of child abuse by a family member. He said the legislation is needed because it sometimes takes decades for people to admit they were molested.

“I was alone trying to understand what happened to me for many years,” Lara said. “I couldn’t go to anyone.”

But some lawmakers objected that the bill applies to private schools but not public schools and would not provide for more criminal penalties.

"I want to see a bill that applies to both public and private [school]  victims,” said Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana). “This bill should be about protecting and bringing restitution to all victims, not just one set versus another.”

Sen. Marty Block (D-San Diego) reacted angrily to those who said the bill was too narrowly written.

“It gives more protections to some victims of molestation,” Block said on the floor. “How can you possibly oppose that?”

Sen. James Beall Jr. (D-San Jose) authored SB 131.

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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