Supporting SB131 to Give Sexual Abuse Victims a Voice

Victims need a voice, no matter how long ago their trauma occurred. Myself, along with Mary R. Williams fought long and hard for the passage of SB108 in 1991. We were able to get the California statutes of limitation in the civil code changed so adults could seek justice for what happened to them as children. Why would I not want that same right for all victims of sexual abuse? SB131 will continue this belief that victims can hold their attackers accountable even years after the crime was committed.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there should be no statute of limitations for child sexual abuse. It is a crime that should be treated in the same manner as kidnapping or murder. “Studies show that most sexually abused persons remember their abuse sometime between the ages of 29 and 49,” so why would we condemn people who repressed their memories and didn’t report their abuse within a few weeks or months of its occurrence?

Legislative change is the only way we can help give victims the protection and compensation they deserve. SB131 “would provide that the time limits for commencement of an action for recovery of damages suffered as a result of childhood sexual abuse shall be applied retroactively to any claim that has not been adjudicated to finality on the merits as of January 1, 2014. This bill would revive, for a period of one year, a cause of action, as specified, that would otherwise be barred by the statute of limitations as of January 1, 2014, provided that the plaintiff’s 26th birthday was before January 1, 2003, and the plaintiff discovered the cause of his or her injury on or after January 1, 2004.” In ‘An open letter to Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian re SB 131’s Elimination of the Statute of Limitations on Certain Child Abuse Claims’, four arguments are made against the new bill. Stephen M Bainbridge states that SB131 “first, ensures that prosecutions are based upon reasonably fresh evidence – the idea being that over time memories fade, witnesses die or leave the area, and physical evidence becomes more difficult to obtain, identify or preserve…Second, statutes of limitations encourage law enforcement officials to investigate suspected criminal activity in a timely fashion… [Third,] as time goes by, the likelihood increases that an offender has reformed, making punishment less necessary… Finally, there is the thought that statutes of limitations provide an overall sense of security and stability to human affairs.”

With regards specifically to the fourth argument against SB131, what I have said before regarding SB108 is particularly applicable. Law is what upholds morality in our society. Law itself cannot make a person moral or immoral. So I do not think that a crime committed 3 hours ago versus a crime committed 30 years ago should be treated any differently. The victim was traumatized for life, forever burdened with the scars and emotional trauma. No matter what age you are, no one escapes those wounds completely.

Some 3rd party possible defendants such as Boy Scouts and Catholic Church are against SB 131 because they do not want to be affiliated with an individual who committed the crime. I do believe the organizations need to be acknowledged in the pursuit of justice when it comes to sexual abuse. There is evidence time and time again that people know about sexual abuse happening to children, and yet remain silent. Organizations where children are being sexually abused should not get a free pass. They should be striving just as hard to make sure this world is a safer place for children, not turning a blind eye to crime.

The passage of SB131 is paramount. Our society should defend children who have been sexually abused, hold any perpetrator of abuses accountable no matter how long ago the abuse occurred, and provide hope that future attacks on children may diminish as these lawsuits become more visible. “People need to learn that sexual abuse doesn’t go away. It continues to twist the mind and emotions of those who have experienced it for years afterward.” We need to aid in the healing process, no matter how long it takes.