In 1955, a woman named Rosa Parks refused to give up her Montgomery, Alabama bus seat to a white man.
But on that day, she did not stand up and shout, “If ALL African Americans can’t have complete and equal rights and access, then NO ONE should get anything!”
Why? Because civil rights movements are intellectual, emotional and legislative wars, fought battle by battle. Rosa Parks could not win the war in one fell swoop. But she could win a battle.
Which brings us to California’s SB 131, the Child Victims’ Act. SB 131 opens a one-year civil window for victims to come forward in the civil courts to expose their abuser, get justice, and punish wrongdoers. The state had a similar bill in 2003, but because of last year’s California Supreme Court decision in the Quarry case, many victims were excluded, even if they had mountains of evidence. This bill fixes that.
According to today’s editorial in the San Jose Mercury News:
Why should [a civil window] ever end? Why should those responsible for abuse get a pass if enough time goes by?
Yet opponents of the bill, including the California Catholic Conference, US Swimming, and CAPSO call the bill a “mockery of legal protection.” They claim that the bill creates two classes of victims, those abused in public institutions and those abused in private schools. And they are terribly wrong.
If we don’t take a stand against abuse where we can RIGHT NOW, how can we fight for other victims next week, next month or next year? Public school victims don’t look at us with envy, they look at us for HOPE. They know that this civil window WILL expose perpetrators in public schools—men like Joseph Pina who worked in the LAUSD, even though district officials knew Pina had been accused of abuse while a priest in the Archdiocese.
Public school victims know that by exposing as many perpetrators and as much cover-up as we can, we can help build public outrage and help defeat sovereign immunity, the law that currently protects public entities from any civil lawsuit.
Portraying victims as petulant children with a “How about me?” mentality is shameful and insulting to the victims’ movement. When victims won rights in Delaware, Hawaii and Minnesota, victims in other states didn’t say, “That’s not fair!” Instead they cheered—because a win for one victim is a win for all victims. It’s one more victory in battle that helps us all win the war. Any time a child is protected, a survivor gets strength, healing and hope.
If SB 131 is killed, we will NEVER be able to expose abuse in public schools, because we won’t have the evidence, support and wins necessary to take on a much larger opponent. SB 131 is a strategic necessity in defeating sovereign immunity and exposing organizations that spend millions to protect abusers in public schools.
If you want to expose abuse in public schools, you MUST support California’s SB 131. If the bill dies, public school victims will never have a fighting chance.
Just like Rosa Parks, we have to start small. But our goals include victory and healing for all. One battle at a time.