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Access to Justice Denied By Governor's Veto of California Victims Rights Act SB 131

Veto Protects Institutions That Harbored Sex Abusers and Destroys Victims Hopes for Justice

SAN DIEGO, CA (Oct. 12, 2013) Victims' rights attorney Irwin Zalkin expressed extreme disappointment with the Governor's veto today of SB 131 by Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) and pledged to continue to stand by the victims of childhood sexual abuse who were victimized in their childhood at private institutions such as the Catholic Church.

Governor Brown's veto of SB 131 is a devastating blow for childhood victims of sexual abuse because the veto in effect continues to protect institutions such as the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America, Jehovah's Witnesses and Swim USA that have been shown to have shielded sexual predators in their ranks from proper accountability and for years did little to address concerns.

“ On behalf of hundreds of victims who had hoped to access justice under this bill, I am deeply disappointed by the Governor's action, said Zalkin. This legislation was thoroughly analyzed and refined over months of hearings by the legislature was carefully drafted to finally give victims of childhood sexual abuse their day in court.”

The Catholic Church and other organizations hit by molestation scandals had heavily lobbied in opposition to SB 131 with a church-affiliated group hiring a half dozen expensive lobbying firms to lead their fight. The effort by the church included visits by bishops to the Capitol as well as advocacy by priests from the pulpit to turn parishioners against the bill.

“ The Catholic Church spared no expense to keep the doors of justice closed to victims of sexual abuse in their fight against this bill,” said Zalkin. Maintaining their veil of secrecy over the abuses of the past was more important to the church than a fair and open path to justice for the victims harmed by the perpetrators who were protected for years by the church.

Over the past decade, California's Catholic dioceses have paid $1.2 billion in settlements and released thousands of confidential documents that showed church leaders conspired to shield admitted molesters from law enforcement

The key provision of Beall's bill would have re-opened the window on the statute of limitations in molestation claims for another year, but only for a group who were 26 or older and missed the previous deadline because of abuse-related psychological problems. Advocates say loosening time limits is crucial in sex-abuse cases because it often takes decades for victims to realize or publicly admit that they were molested and seek legal recourse.

Zalkin pledged to continue working with victim's organizations to find alternative justice options through legislation or in the courts for the survivors of childhood sexual abuse.