California Bill to Help Sexual-Abuse Victims Sits on Governor’s Desk

5659420316_a538de2f68California Senate Bill 131, otherwise known as the The Child Victims Act, was passed by the state Legislature earlier this year–but it’s still sitting on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. He has until October 13 to sign the bill, veto it or let it pass into law without signing.

The governor, a former Jesuit seminarian, is  under pressure to veto the bill from Catholic dioceses and other Church officials, as well as from organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America and USA Swimming–all entities that could face lawsuits if the bill is passed into law.

The Child Victims Act would expand the statute of limitations for victims of sexual abuse to seek monetary damages in civil courts. If the bill becomes law, victims would be able to sue institutions that failed to adequately protect them from sexual predators.

According to Irwin Zalkin, a clergy abuse lawyer in San Diego, many victims only realize later in life the psychological damage that their childhood abuse has had on them. Oftentimes, when they are ready to come forward, the statute of limitations has run out, their perpetrators are “either judgment-proof or dead” and the institutions who covered up the crimes continue to find ways to escape culpability.

Representing sexual abuse survivors for the past decade, Zalkin has seen firsthand how devastating it is to a victim to be told they have no recourse when they finally muster the courage to confront what happened to them. In an interview with Ms., Zalkin stressed the importance of constituents speaking up:

I urge everyone to please contact Gov. Jerry Brown and voice your support for SB 131. The easiest way to do that is to go to the governor’s website and let him know that he should sign The Child Victims Act into law.

Catholic churches across California have mobilized their followers in the opposite direction, urging them to call and write the Governor’s office and ask that he veto SB 131, claiming it “unduly impacts the Church” by exposing them to “unlimited liability.”

Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and a clergy sexual-abuse survivor herself, told Ms:

This bill will immediately make children in California safer. It will expose the identities of those who enable the predators and cover up the crimes. The secrecy and silence is what enables the sexual violence to spread, that’s why it’s important. It’ll protect kids and make California a safer place for children.


Photo of Catholic priest praying from Flickr user Ghazilee165 under license from Creative Commons 2.0





Melissa McGlensey recently graduated from the University of Oregon with a B.A. in English and Spanish with a minor in creative writing; she is currently interning at Ms.




  1. Marlene McGlensey says:

    We should be protecting our children from ANYONE that wants to hurt them, regardless of who they are.

  2. Geez, you are the governor of a huge state and you haven’t signed a Bill that benefits victims of abuse! Holy cow, who are you hoping to influence by not doing so? The catholic church is one of the biggest abusers of all and are guilty of knowing who the abusers were and yet still moved them around to different parishes where they could hurt more children. Boy Scouts? A bunch of little guys being abused by some men – open season for perverts.
    When will lawmakers start helping the victims. These organizations think they’ll have to make big payouts if they are sued. Yet, when abuses occur, the victims suffer and don’t get any money for counselling. Some grow up to abuse others. Some family members of abused children feel guilt forever. So, the three organizations cited above have more clout.
    Who are you trying to help by holding off on signing this Bill? Shouldn’t you be helping VICTIMS, not organizations which allowed the abuse to happen. Please listen to ordinary people and sign the Bill. Help the people who need it, not organizations who in the past condoned the abuse!

  3. Sandra Hornsby White-CA NOW Member says:

    Governor Jerry Brown is easily influenced by his sphere of influence.
    The young people who work with him at the Capitol often do the research and
    he backs their decision for bill passages into law.
    He vetoed the “unshackling” of incarcerated pregnant women during transportation and
    labor and delivery because the Oakland City Police Officers regard for civilian safety instead
    of the safety of the unborn baby and Mother shackled at the stomach and at the ankles.
    Or any psychological ramifications caused for the infant during labor, delivery, and the robbed
    of their Mothers following birth.
    I am hoping that he will realize the complexity of needs for abused children. It took 30 years for the
    non-profit Catholic Church Priests and Clergy member to be held accountable for their actions with never before “predesignated” and relentless victims and law wins.

  4. Victims should always be allowed to bring a lawsuit. Everybody should have their day in court for child abuse crimes. There is no statute of limitations for embezzeling public money, why do we let child rapists off the hook? Is public money more important than exposing pedophiles and protecting children. The average pedophile has hundreds of victims. Any law that exposes one pedophile will protect hundreds of children from haunting damage. Transparency and justice for victims is the only way forward. Anything else is a disservice to the society we live in. Thank you for being a voice for victims. We would love to see a follow up article.

  5. If you think for one minuet that the governor should veto that bill take yourself let someone molest you that your supposed to look up to trust and respect and find out that their bosses knew what he was doing but instead of helping you or turning him in to police just move him to start at another church and do the same thing to more innocent kids and their bosses do this 5 times INSTEAD OF TURNING HIM IN see if you would want the governor to veto the bill read THE KING OF THE COUNTY PEDOPHILES ELEUTERIO RAMOS GIVE ME A BREAK VETO MY ASS

  6. Melanie Sakoda says:

    Thank you for writing about this important bill. Children will be safer if these institutions can be held accountable.

    Melanie Jula Sakoda
    Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP)

  7. gloria sullivan says:

    Thank you for your writing on t h is subject Melissa.. I have been blogging for over 12 yrs. on the subject of the many abuses that the Catholic clergy have done to Spiritually Murder our children, (the handicapped and marginalized). My husband and I have been out of the Catholic Church since our 50th wedding anniversary mass on the back deck of our boat in San Diego, 2001.
    It became a thing I had to do to prove to our relatives (that were in religious orders) that we finally believed what they had told us about the abuses”going on” that we wouldn’t’ t believe we. They have since. died…way too young of broken hearts I’m sure. Please continue your crusade for the children who cannot speak for themselves…

  8. gloria sullivan says:

    The picture of the ” pious”priest makes my stomach queezy! They all know what’s going on and are equally to blame for covering up for each other (in the priesthood,brotherhood and sisterhood…)I was told so many years ago about these CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY and we would not believe them. That,s how ” brainwashed we all were, in those days. No more, thanks to the Instant communication of the INTERNET!

  9. Gloria – Thanks for your comments. What’s your blog?
    One other point – this bill will also deter current and future cover ups of child sex crimes. It will prompt decision-makers who are weighing whether to hide or expose predators in their midst to err on the side of kids’ safety and oust predators and call police (instead of concealing the crimes, waiting for an archaic, predator-friendly deadline to expire).

  10. NoManAlone says:

    Every victim of chilhood sexual abuse should have the statute of limitations on their side. I have watched men suffer from the afflictions caused by their perpatrators only to be forced to live in pain because they can not get the help they deserve. It cost too much money to seek the therapy they need. Many are so harmed employment is a struggle. Their relations are in turmoil. These victims should be able to have their day in court. They should be allowed the opportunity to find some glimpse of restoration. Not only should Brown let this bill pass, he should sign his name to it. No Man Alone. Stand up and be counted!

  11. I am the 74 year old mother of a brilliant young man who was repeatedly raped by a neighboring priest 42 years ago, another one (a friend of the 1st one) raped him at gunpoint on the altar of a parish to kill his career of the ministry. I have spent millions to provide sanctuary and healing to our son. As you can imagine, this took a lot of work, hard work. He remains pained and depressed with no end in sight. If the Governor understands the plight of victims, he will sign the bill immediately. Thank you, SNAP for permitting us this information!!

  12. L. Schultz says:

    Child abuse should never be tolerated or have a deadline for punishment. As the article stated it is many years before a victim maybe able or willing to tell their story. And if there is a timeline to have that story told, many may go unspoken (as I am sure they have). Why speak up if you have missed the opportunity (deadline) to punish those who have violated the innocent. Children and childhood should be protected from the abusers and the ones who cover it up, without a deadline.

  13. Melissa McGlensey says:

    Thank you all for your comments! All your personal stories are moving and only make the unfortunate news worse: SB 131 was vetoed by Gov. Brown on Saturday, the day before it would have become law. Now more than even we need to stand up for the rights of victims.

  14. I am disappointed that the bill passed. Gov. Jerry Brown approved of the horrors done by the so called priests. He made himself look BAD. He approved of that abuse to children who looked up to these awful men. The church moved them to abuse another. I am so disappointed.

  15. Gov. Jerry brown , shame on you for covering u what those monsters did to children in the past.They will do it again. You just joined their team of approvers

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