AB 218 extends the time for those affected in California to file a complaint

The passage of California AB 218 is considered an important step forward for survivors of child sexual abuse and is critical in the effort to protect California's children, activists said yesterday.

The new rule – signed by Governor Gavin Newsom last Sunday – seeks that sexual abusers of minors face the weight of the law by opening a three-year window for victims to make claims that were previously prohibited.

It also extends the civil statute of limitations (ie the time limit for filing a complaint) up to 40 years and extends the definition of child sexual abuse to child sexual assault.

Beatriz Mendoza, child abuse survivor and child advocate, said the signing of this law is a historic moment.

"Many people who have been abused think that if they share their story, nothing can be done and the deadline has passed (for a complaint)," said the woman, who is also a member of Zero Abuse, an organization that struggles to mitigate the child sexual abuse

Mendoza explained that before AB 218 was passed in California, people were only up to 26 years old to report any child sexual attack.

Now AB 218 opens a three-year window, beginning in January 2020, so that people regardless of their age can talk about their situation and file a civil lawsuit. Mendoza said that the main objective of this law is to protect children.

"It will help institutions, we want to help so that the trauma does not continue," he said.

The law stipulates that survivors of child sexual assault may file civil lawsuits against their predators and the institutions that protected them, regardless of how long the crime occurred.

Facing the past

Joelle Casteix, survivor of child abuse and the only one who testified on behalf of AB 218, said that with the approval of the law, Governor Newsom and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez – author of the new measure – changed the balance of power.

"For almost 16 years, court doors have been closed to adult survivors of child sexual assault in California, especially survivors of impoverished communities and immigrants," said Casteix, who is a founding member of the Zero Abuse Project.

He added that when he was 15, he was sexually abused by the choir director of his Catholic school, Mater Dei High School, in the city of Santa Ana in Orange County.

“I was abused for a period of two years, I was infected with a sexually transmitted disease and I got pregnant. When the school administrators found out, they covered up the predator, ”Casteix said.

She said that as an adult she managed to access the documents of the abuser – identified by the Orange County Register as Thomas Hodgman – including a confession signed by him where he admitted the sexual abuse.

It was clarified that if an immigrant family decides to make a complaint, it does not affect their immigration status.

There were 13 additional perpetrators with almost 100 victims between 1984 and 1988, years in which Casteix attended Mater Dei High School.

The victim said that Hodgman withdrew from Mater Dei school without any problem and that she found him teaching at a university in Michigan where he managed to expose him until he was removed. He won a lawsuit after exposing it and now he is unemployed.

"What happens is that parents lower their guard thinking that their children are safe when they are in the hands of clergy and a priest," said Casteix, who is now an activist, lecturer and writer dedicated to fighting against sexual abuse childish.

With this law, survivors can finally help protect children by making sure that what happened to them does not happen to another child.

Casteix added that child sexual assault is a crime of power that uses sex as a weapon.

“Predators know that child victims are not likely to report. Predators depend on institutions to access and cover up, ”said the activist.

“Now, with this three-year civil window, survivors can expose abusers who still work with children today, as well as the institutions that cover it. We are sending a loud and clear message: predators and those who protect them are no longer safe in the Golden State. ”

Once the three-year period to report child sexual predators is over, victims of child abuse have up to 40 years to file their complaint.

Casteix said that no person should fear when reporting sexual abusers whether from religious, educational, extracurricular or even family members themselves.

"It can be very intimidating but they can (report) privately and for immigrant families it is important to emphasize that it does not affect their immigration status at all," said the activist.


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