Do you know anyone in California? Most likely, you do. After all, it is our nation’s largest state, with a population growing from fewer than two million people in 1900 to over 39,000,000 today. In fact, in the last half of the 20th century, California’s growth rate was much higher than that of the rest of the United States. With that said, who do you know that was born in Los Angeles? Or who moved to San Francisco as a child? Maybe someone you know moved there for a year or two because dad was transferred to a military base, mom worked on a Native American reservation, or both went to college? Maybe you know people that have visited one of California’s outstanding state parks or spent a few weeks at a summer camp in California?
Why are we asking? Because anyone who was sexually abused as a child in California has a pretty rare but soon-to-be-over legal opportunity for justice. It expires on December 31. We are referring to the civil ‘window’ that temporarily suspends the statute of limitations on child sex crimes and cover-ups. In layman’s terms, this means that anyone who was molested or raped during childhood anywhere in California at any time has a soon-to-vanish ‘window’ during which they can file a lawsuit against the priest, nun, bishop, monk, brother, seminarian, or other church workers who perpetrated the heinous crimes.
This is a rare chance. Most jurisdictions have a short statute of limitations or deadline by which child sex abuse survivors can use the courts to win justice. It can be stunningly narrow and restrictive, like two or three years after the youngster reaches “the age of maturity” (usually 18 or 21). This window is an unusual opportunity for those who were abused in California and may still be suffering but have been told, “Sorry, it’s too late for you to take any legal action.”
That’s why we at Horowitz Law are doing our best to spread the word about this opportunity. We hope you’ll do so as well. The civil window expires on Dec. 31, 2022, so the deadline is approaching quickly. You may be thinking, “But I don’t know of anyone who was molested or raped in California by anyone.” That may be true, but we suspect that – like most people – you don’t often bring up this painful subject, even among those you know well. So now is the time to reach out to friends and family that ever lived in California. A sample question could be, “This may seem like an odd or difficult question, but were you ever touched inappropriately by an older person when you were young?”
And please remember three key facts:
1) It takes just seconds for an adult to put his tongue in a boy’s mouth or his hand in a girl’s pants. So, even if your friend, relative, or acquaintance was in California for a day or two, it’s possible that a cleric or church worker hurt them.
2) Child predators often seek out kids who are ‘just passing through,’ hoping that the child will not immediately report having been molested. (Most kids can’t or don’t speak up right after they’re abused.) By the time they do report it (if ever), it’s possible – or even likely – that the young victim will not recall the name of the assailant.
3) Most child predators are opportunistic. Many have a ‘type’ of youngster they find especially attractive. But often, they’ll assault whatever child is at hand (preferably one who may seem more compliant or obedient and perhaps less likely to resist or speak out).
Many will spend months or years carefully ‘grooming’ one or two particular children. But some are more aggressive and will assault a boy or girl very quickly. This means that Catholic predators will NOT necessarily restrict themselves to victims who are Catholic. Maybe a Lutheran teenager is hired to mow the church grounds. Maybe the Methodist girl lives next door to the parish rectory. Maybe the Baptist boy belongs to the Boy Scout troop that meets at the church. There are a million different scenarios.
In short, sadly, there are many ways a Catholic cleric can come into contact with children whose parents belong to other faith groups (or none at all). This brings us back to the soon-to-vanish legal opportunity for anyone that was sexually violated at any time by anyone. The opportunity ends next month, and many could benefit from it, although we strongly suspect that many don’t know about it. Just to be clear, the ‘window’ helps anyone in California who was sexually assaulted by anyone at any time – not just those who were hurt by Catholic clerics. So please take a deep breath, overcome your awkwardness, and ask friends, family, and acquaintances if they were hurt as a youngster in California. If it’s easier, just send them this blog post.
Do your part to ensure everyone who might benefit from this window knows about it. If you DO know or find someone who’s been hurt like this, you cannot restore their shattered childhood or undo the long-lasting (but often unspoken) harm they’ve suffered. You can play a small part in helping them achieve justice, healing, and closure.
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy. If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in California, contact our office today. The filing deadline is December 31, 2022, so please do not delay in reaching out to us. Contact us at 888-283-9922 or [email protected] to discuss your options today.