“California man demonstrates importance of court access for child sex abuse victims.”
| 6/24/16 | Bill White | The Morning Call |
I got an email this morning from a San Diego man who wanted people in Pennsylvania to know how his state’s statute of limitations reform bill helped him and that the tactics being used to fight a statute bill here are similar to those he has seen elsewhere.
California legislators in 2002 voted to open a one-year window for all child sex abuse victims to file suits, even if they were blocked by the statute of limitations. Paul Livingston and his brother — abused as small children by the same Catholic school custodian — were among the victims who filed suit, and the court settlement with the Los Angeles Archdiocese helped Paul finally get help with the aftermath of his abuse.
This reinforces one of the most important points in these efforts to give more victims access to the civil courts. When they’re blocked by statutes of limitations, the cost of treating their problems — and the social cost of leaving the damage untreated — must be borne by the victims and by society at large. The people responsible are left unscathed.
These bills — including House Bill 1947 in Pennsylvania, now being considered by the state Senate after overwhelmingly passing in the House — have the potential to change that.
Paul Livingston became something of a crusader for similar statute of limitations reforms elsewhere. You can see video of his testimony on a similar Maryland bill here.
He and his brother used some of the $4 million they collectively received to open an organization called Five Star Recovery to help victims of childhood abuse. A blurb at the organization’s website explains:
“Since Paul began his recovery, he has turned to helping others recover from the all-to-familiar and seemingly hopeless bouts of depression, alcoholism, and substance abuse. These symptoms and many more plague those who have been victims of childhood sexual abuse.”
Here’s his email, which I’ve edited slightly:
My name is Paul Livingston. I’m a victim of abuse that happened in California in the ’70s when I was 6 and 7.
I led a life for many years that was troubled and found I had become my own anesthesiologist to live. NOT KNOWING WHAT WAS WRONG WITH ME.
Fast forward to 1998. I stopped prescribing medications for myself and started to deal with life sober.
In 2002 the local paper Union Tribune ran a story about a new law that was passed in California. It detailed damages from abuse in childhood. I fit all the signs and had never told a soul about it.
I began exploring my checkered past from abuse. I got angry that people could have stopped what happened to me as a child and did not. The Roman Catholic Church knew abuse was going on and did not call the cops. They continued to lie.
I persevered and won my case.
The damages were paid, and I’ve received much-need therapists’ help. Only monetary help enabled me to get the assistance I had needed for so many years.
I took some of that monetary assistance and flew all over the country promoting legislation to help others who were also abused as children.
I flew to Denver two times. The leader of the church there, Charles Chaput [now archbishop of the Philadelphia Archdiocese], was particularly successful opposing laws that help children. WHY, I could not understand it. He has been successful at putting down GOOD legislation that helps victims of abuse. Senators being threatened and senators losing the jobs they had been elected for. Because the RCC had more pull in the communities.
I am a victim who speaks publicly. Good luck covering this travesty.