California is bracing for what could be an avalanche of lawsuits involving allegations of child sex assaults. A new law signed by Governor Newsom allows victims more time to file lawsuits. Assembly Bill 218 will take effect on January 1st and could affect victims in many walks of life, from child athletes to school children to boy scouts and young Catholics.
Host: California Assembly Bill 218 will take effect on January 1st, and could affect victims in many walks of life, from child athletes, to school children, to Boy Scouts, and young Catholics. Attorney Ray Boucher is here now to tell us more about that. Welcome, and thanks for dropping by this afternoon, we really appreciate it. What exactly does Assembly Bill 218 do?
Ray Boucher: It does a lot of things, but the three primary things are:
Host: This plays in part to anyone who is at fault. So that can be a school it could be a church, it could be a talent agency, right?
Ray Boucher: Right, so that’s one of the other things that is really critical about this statute: it allows you to bring cases against school districts, which in the past really was a unique circumstance not allowed in the previous revival statute. There is a tremendous amount of sexual abuse within the Hollywood industry, within schools, within boy scouts and other types of organizations that cater to children, and then, obviously the Catholic Church.
Host: And some of the wording has changed from abuse to assault. Why?
Ray Boucher: You know, this is a crime. Many of these cases that are ten years old are cold cases. This is criminal conduct, and so I think the main aspect of the statute was to broaden the language to ensure that people understand that this is sexual assault, this is a criminal conduct against a minor. It is serious.
Host: Let’s talk about the Catholic Church. How are they responding to this law?
Ray Boucher: So far, they have established a compensation fund that we don’t think is adequate to take care of victims of sexual abuse. Right now, they are sitting back trying to think and understand how many cases are going to be filed. We know that there are thousands and thousands of victims of clergy sexual abuse in California alone that have never brought forth their claims, because it is difficult. It takes a tremendous amount of courage for an adult to come forward, who has been beaten as a young child into believing that they had to suffer in silence and to be silent to come forward and ultimately say, “I was abused.”
Host: So, what exactly happened January 1st? I know one of your biggest challenges is getting the word out because people just don’t know, especially with the passage of time, that they can still get justice.
Ray Boucher: Yes, and that is one of the most critical things. People don’t understand and it takes a tremendous amount of courage even when they hear it. It also takes the understanding that they are not there alone. That for each victim that comes forward and finds the courage to do so, they open up the opportunity for so many others who were sexually abused by that same perpetrator to do the same thing.
Host: And you’re making sure they’re not alone, so thank you so much for the work you’re doing. Again, it’s going into effect on January 1st, so we’ll see what happens then, and how many cases are filed.