SACRAMENTO – (Tuesday, April 24, 2018) – California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) today won approval from a key Assembly committee for her bill eliminating the civil statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual assault.
The Assembly Judiciary Committee approved Assembly Bill 3120 on a vote of 7-0. The bill now heads Assembly’s Appropriations Committee.
“We’ve seen far too many examples of women who took literally decades before they felt comfortable coming forward and telling their stories,” Asm. Gonzalez Fletcher said. “No woman should have to battle a ticking clock when making the agonizing decision about whether to confront her abuser in public. If we’re serious about protecting our children, we can’t allow their abusers – and the institutions that enable these abusers -- to avoid justice by running out the clock.”
AB 3120 will, among other things, eliminate the time limit for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits and allow for a judge or jury to triple the amount of damages awarded in cases where the defendants engaged in a cover-up.
Under existing law, a survivor must file a lawsuit within eight years of reaching adulthood or within three years of the date that a survivor who reaches adulthood “discovers or reasonably should have discovered” that she or he suffered damages as a result of the assault, whichever comes later.
In 2007, the legislature in Delaware completely removed the civil statute of limitations for claims of childhood sexual abuse. Maine, Utah and Guam have also completely abolished a statute of limitations for claims of childhood sexual abuse.
Recent examples of survivors coming forward decades after the abuse extend far beyond the case of Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics team doctors who pleaded guilty to being a serial child molester. These survivors must overcome a host of obstacles – psychological trauma, shame, fear -- when making this deeply personal decision.
Sometimes it takes these survivors decades just to confide in their own spouses about the traumas they’ve suffered. Because they were preyed upon as children, when they were most vulnerable, it should come as no surprise that these survivors might take decades to heal to the point of being able to share their agonizing stories. Sometimes it takes them many years just to recall all the horrific details of what happened.
Stories abound of public and private institutions that turned a blind eye to rampant abuses and need to be held accountable, even if it takes decades to do so.
A Southern California News Group investigation found that hundreds of underage USA swimmers have been subject to sexual abuse at the hands of their coaches and others in positions of power. “Top USA Swimming executives, board members, top officials and coaches acknowledge […] that they were aware of sexually predatory coaches for years, in some cases even decades, but did not take action against them.”
At a high school in the San Diego area, a teacher was investigated for improper behavior towards students multiple times and even removed from the classroom once by the district. However, an investigation by Voice of San Diego found a lack of records for additional complaints that were made to the administration over a 10-year period, stating “some student complaints may have never left the principal’s office”2. The former students coming forward are now are in their 20s and 30s.
For more information on this issue or to schedule an interview with Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher, contact Alex Roth at 619-228-3253.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher represents California’s 80th Assembly District, located in southern San Diego County, including the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista, and National City. She serves as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Appropriations, Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Women in the Workplace, and Vice Chair of the California Latino Legislative Caucus. For more information on Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher visit https://a80.asmdc.org/