SACRAMENTO –Governor Brown has signed into law legislation by Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay) to prohibit secret settlements in sexual abuse cases.
“Secret settlements interfere with the prosecution of sexual predators and therefore could endanger children and other vulnerable potential victims of sexual assault. By shielding cases from the public and law enforcement, secret settlements unfairly allow sexual offenders with the financial means to pay for the silence of their victims and escape criminal prosecution,” said Stone. “This new law will help protect potential victims by prohibiting the use of settlements to shield sexual offenders from public knowledge and scrutiny.”
AB 1682 closes a significant loophole in existing law in order to protect vulnerable populations from sexual predators who settle civil actions with their victims to keep their abuse secret. Existing law prohibits the confidential settlement of a civil action where the factual basis for the action is “an act that may be prosecuted as a felony sex offense.” The new law clarifies that the confidential settlement of civil actions involving the sexual abuse of children, elders and dependent adults --whether felonies or misdemeanors—is prohibited by law as against public policy.
In addition to AB 1682, the Governor has signed into law several other Stone bills to help California’s most vulnerable residents:
- AB 1684 gives human trafficking victims the opportunity to seek justice through a civil action and be awarded damages for their suffering. The measure provides clear authority of the Attorney General, county district attorneys, and city attorneys to bring civil actions on behalf of a victim of human trafficking. While existing law allows victims to bring civil action against the perpetrator for actual and punitive damages, many victims lack the resources to do so. This bill allows public authorities to bring an action and award damages to the victim.
- AB 1702 adds the sexual exploitation of a child for commercial purposes to the list of circumstances under which family reunification is foregone when a child is brought into foster care. It provides additional legal protections to foster youth who have been victims of commercial sexual exploitation at the hands of their own parents or guardians. It also provides new protections in state law that such foster youth are not placed at risk of further exploitation by the very system that is supposed to protect them.
The measures go into effect on January 1, 2017.