Vlog: How Are Institutional Defendants Responding to Claims Brought Under the California Child Victims Act?

Transcript: So, being about a year into the window provided by the Child Victims Act, we’ve now had a chance to really see a response from some of the institutional defendants. One of those defendants who’s litigating very vigorously is the Catholic Church. They’re not the only one, because there are lots of institutions who have been covering up this abuse and are subject to lawsuits now brought under the Child Victims Act. And some institutions are trying to respond and acknowledge the harm that was there, and rectify that to the extent they can. Some institutions have, for lack of a better term, lawyered-up and have tried to fight liability; tried to fight just the very validness, the very validity of the Child Victims Act.

As the Child Victims Act was coming into existence, many of the bishops in California created what they call the Compensation Fund. And while that was an option for some survivors, the reality is that most of the bishops in California used that as a chance to try to limit liability and gain information about the claims. Those programs are now closed. And now we get to see how the church is really responding. And so far they’ve responded with lawyers. They have challenged the validity of the Child Victims Act. Their lawyers have been filing papers and seeking to undermine it in its totality.

Now, look, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think those tactics are going to work. And the reality is, we have seen lawyers attack statutes and new laws like the Child Victims Act here in California previously. The attacks were unsuccessful, and survivors were able to maintain those claims. We’ve seen those attacks in other states that have had similar laws, like New York, New Jersey, and Hawaii.

All the time, the Catholic Church has been seeing the accountability that’s been demanded by the people and by the lawmakers, and their response across the board is: lawyer-up, fight the new law, make it as hard as possible. Now, they’ve been unsuccessful.

But that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. That’s part of our job as advocates—to be able to recognize that these challenges are brought (they’ve been squashed up until now, and to keep squashing the [opposition]), and to make sure that the doors stay open for survivors and that the intent of the Child Victims Act is recognized. The intent is to give survivors the rights that they haven’t had for a very long time. And that’s what we’re doing.

So right now there are defendants. And most of them are institutional defendants who are scared, and they’re scared to pay money. They’re scared of the accountability, and they’re scared of the publicity that these cases bring because it discloses what they knew and when they knew it.