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Recently, a new bill was passed in the California legislature that extends the length of time survivors of sexual abuse have to bring suits against the perpetrators. The measure, Assembly Bill 218, was signed into law in mid-October and goes into effect on January 1, 2020.
Previously, survivors of sexual abuse had to file cases within eight years after they reached the age of majority (18) or within three years after the date of discovery of sexual abuse. (The date of discovery is the date at which survivors realized that a psychological illness or injury developed after the age of 18 resulted from sexual abuse.) A time frame within which to bring a suit is referred to as the statute of limitations.
When AB 2018 goes into effect, however, survivors will have 22 years rather than eight to file a claim after they reach the age of 18. They also now have five years after the date of discovery to file a claim, rather than three. The statute of limitations, in other words, was significantly lengthened.
AB 218 also recognizes that some cases may exceed the 22-year statute of limitations. As a result, the measure provides a three-year window to submit claims regarding sexual abuse, regardless of when they occurred. In other words, if you suffered sexual abuse more than 22 years ago, you can file a claim to seek justice during the next three years.
While the bill covers all sexual abuse cases, it could bring justice to many survivors of sexual abuse within the Catholic church. Sexual abuse within the church is a sensitive issue, but discussing matters with an attorney, especially if the statute of limitations prevented you from bringing a suit until now, can be a means to healing and seeing that justice is finally done.
The experienced California Catholic sex abuse lawyers at The Gomez Law Firm will review your case honestly, with discretion and tact. We have a proven record of success for our clients, with settlements of $1.25 million for a school sexual abuse case and $1.5 million for sexual assault. Our initial consultation is always free; our fees are paid on a contingency basis, meaning that we are paid out of the settlement if your case is won.
Over the past several decades, it has become apparent that Catholic clergy have perpetrated numerous cases of sexual abuse. In fact, nationally, the Catholic Church has paid over $3.8 billion to settle sexual abuse lawsuits and other claims against its clergy brought during the past 40 years. The amount is an aggregate of settlements in cases brought by over 8,600 sexual abuse survivors. The claims include incidents dating back to the 1950s.
California could be an epicenter of abuse. The largest single payout of the $3.8-plus billion occurred in Los Angeles, and totaled $660 million.
In fact, a suit has been filed against all Catholic bishops in California, alleging a civil conspiracy on the part of Catholic Church leaders to cover up sexual abuse allegations, in part by transferring them to parishes in other areas, both in the U.S. and throughout the world. One of the goals of the suit is to ensure that the Church releases the names of all clergy accused of molestation and sexual abuse.
The Catholic Church in California has in recent years moved to release the names of priests accused of sex abuse, especially in light of a massive record of sex abuse cases discovered in Pennsylvania. It appears that at least some of the accused were sent to churches in California without any public knowledge of the accusations. However, many observers say the lists of the accused in southern California are far from complete.
As a result, bringing claims of past sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic clergy is part of setting the record straight, making the scope of abuse transparent in the hopes of stopping it in the future.
Sexual abuse can encompass many actions. Broadly, it refers to anything of a sexual nature that the recipient did not want and that made them uncomfortable. Actions include (but are not limited to):
Forcing includes both physical and psychological coercion. A child may be given to understand, for example, that attention and companionship can be withdrawn if oral sex or other sexual acts are not given.
Survivors of sexual abuse on the part of Catholic clergy suffer in many different ways. They may have needed medical attention for the physical components of abuse. Treatment or mental distress may have required time away from work. In addition, sexual abuse frequently causes non-economic damages, such as mental distress and pain and suffering.
In a civil case against Catholic clergy, the suit can request damages for both economic and non-economic costs the victim suffered. These include:
If you or a loved one has suffered sexual abuse in a California Catholic church, Catholic school, or any other place at the hands of Catholic church clergy, The Gomez Law Firm can help. We have offices in San Diego, Solana Beach, Bakersfield, and San Luis Obispo. Call us at (619) 237-3490 or email us to speak with one of our compassionate, caring California Catholic sex abuse lawyers.
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