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Veto of the California Child Victims Act by Governor Jerry Brown: Statement from the National Center for Victims of Crime

Contact:   Kath Cummins
                Director for Public Affairs

By vetoing the Child Victims Act (SB 131), California Governor Jerry Brown has sided with the interests of powerful institutions ahead of protecting children, The National Center for Victims of Crime said today.

“Institutions will never take child sexual abuse seriously if they can continue to hide behind the restrictive statute of limitations law California and other states cling to,” said The National Center’s Deputy Executive Director, Jeff Dion.

“We know the obstacles to victims coming forward within the traditional time requirements are immense. Many suffer years of depression, addiction and self-blame and go through several failed relationships before they connect this harm with the abuse they endured.

“Meanwhile, we know that child predators don’t retire: they will move on to other victims until we allow past victims to hold them accountable,” he said.

This California legislation was conservative in its scope. SB 131 opened a small, one-year legal window for some adult victims of child sex abuse to file suit against the institutions who had sheltered their abusers.

This small number of victims were not covered by a suspension of the statutes of limitation or "civil window" that went into effect on January 1st, 2003. While these victims were abused prior to the opening of the window, the victims did not meet the legal standard of linking the harm they experienced to the abuse suffered, until after the window closed. The California Supreme Court narrowly determined last year that those victims' sole opportunity to file a civil suit was during the 2003 window.

“In effect the Court ruled that these victims were required to file a lawsuit before they knew they were harmed,” said Mr Dion.

The Governor made no mention of this Supreme Court Case, Quarry v Doe, in his lengthy explanation for using his veto – and yet the bill was crafted specifically to remedy the Supreme Court’s determination that the window could not be retroactive as it was drafted.

Importantly, SB 131 would also have stopped institutions barring access to their files and archives prior to the judge determining whether the case could go forward or be dismissed.

“Time and time again we find evidence of cover-up in the archives of Churches and other institutions. By stopping victims having access to these documents, those who shelter child abusers can again escape accountability,” said National Center Executive Director, Mai Fernandez.

The National Center for Victims of Crime, established in 1985, is the nation’s leading resource and advocacy organization for crime victims and those who serve them. For more than 25 years, the National Center has led this nation’s struggle to provide crime victims with the rights, protections, and services they need to rebuild their lives.