Over the weekend, California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed Senate Bill 131. The veto comes as a disappointment to many who, despite the fact that Gov. Brown is a former Jesuit seminarian, felt that he would let the bill, also known as the Child Victims Act, pass into law. It would have extended the statute of limitations temporarily in order to let victims of sexual abuse seek damages against the private institutions who employed their abusers.
The basis for the bill, authored by Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose), is the fact that many victims of child sexual abuse don’t come forward until much later in life. Oftentimes this is due to humiliation, fear or pressure from within the community, but sometimes it’s because victims use repression as a coping mechanism and don’t fully realize the psychological impact the abuse had on them until they are adults. By the time they come forward, the statute of limitations has run out and they have no further recourse for seeking justice.
Catholic dioceses and church officials across California, as well as organizations such as USA Swimming and the Boy Scouts of America, put tremendous pressure and high-end lobbyists on the governor’s office to veto, as the bill would open them up to potential lawsuits. Gov. Brown stated in his veto message that the bill unfairly targets private institutions and not public ones.
Melanie Sakoda, East Bay director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), told Ms;,
I was personally saddened by the governor’s decision to veto; it was a decision that favors private institutions over innocent children. … but sexual abuse activists haven’t given up the fight. Statute of limitations reform will be back in one form or another.
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.