SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Some victims of childhood sexual abuse would have more time to file civil lawsuits against private or nonprofit organizations that protected their alleged abusers under a bill that passed a key legislative committee Wednesday.
The bill has already passed the Senate and is similar — although narrower in scope — to a 2002 bill that passed during the height of the Catholic Church sex-abuse scandal.
SB131 by Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, heads to the full Assembly after passing the Assembly Appropriations Committee on a 12-4 vote. Wednesday's action came after the bill fell three votes shy of advancing from the same committee last week.
It would lift the statute of limitations for one year for a group of alleged victims who were 26 and older and missed the previous window to file lawsuits in 2003. Beall said he introduced the legislation after hearing from people who said they had been victims of sexual abuse as children and had been unable to seek restitution.
Representatives of the Catholic Church and other institutions, including private schools and the State Alliance of YMCA, argued against the bill, saying it unfairly applies only to private or nonprofit groups. People who say they were abused by public school employees, for example, would not be covered by the bill if it is signed into law.
The National Center for Victims of Crime, which sponsored the bill, and other supporters say victims need the extra time to file lawsuits because it might take years for them to acknowledge that they were molested.
David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, issued a statement after the vote praising the committee's action and calling on the Legislature to give final approval to the bill.