Georgia Senate Changes to Hidden Predator Act Leaves Victims Behind (March 26, 2018)

Senate Version of Hidden Predator Act Leaves Victims Behind

LC 29 8109ERS (SENATE COMMITTEE SUB)

Media Coverage of this issue:

Below are listed the courageous Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse who summoned the strength and courage to come forward and, through testimony, telephone calls, and emails, pleaded with the Georgia Legislature for a shot at justice.

They came forward with their horrifying stories of abuse and the lifetime of harm left for them to deal with and asked for a chance to seek justice from the Sexual Predators and the Entities that had information about the Predators yet failed to take any action to protect Georgia’s children.

Childhood Sexual Abuse has been described as a form of Murder because it literally Kills the Soul of the Victim.

The Georgia Legislature was provided the very real scientific evidence that shows the average victim is not able to come forward until age 42.[1]  Here in Georgia, the average age of the victim asking the Legislature for a chance at justice is 48.[2]  When the Hidden Predator Act of 2015 was passed, this Legislature included a two-year window within which Victims could sue Sexual Predators (without limitations).  At that time, Victims asked for the chance to sue the Entities that literally hid these Predators from Victims, their families, the appropriate authorities, and the public.

Their request was denied.  BUT, in the two years after the 2015 Hidden Predator Act, we learned just how real, shocking, and appalling the evidence of the cover-up by Entities really is and just how devastating the cover-up has been.  Entities, by concealing evidence of Sexual Predators, were able to keep them hidden for so long that traditional Statutes of Limitation had long ago expired by the time the truth was learned.  What’s more, it has been discovered that this is a national epidemic.  In response, 46 states have passed laws like HB 605 (2018 Hidden Predator Act) that extend Statutes of Limitations and allow Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse to sue Entities for covering up evidence in the past.

The message being sent nationally is: “You will not be rewarded for hiding the truth until the Statute of Limitations expired.”

The Georgia House of Representatives heard the call of these Georgia victims.  It passed a version of HB 605 (2018 Hidden Predator Act) that would give all of the Georgia Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse a chance to file suit and seek justice.  However, it also heard the concerns raised by Entities about stale evidence, perceived unfairness in going back, and treating everyone equally.

So, the version of HB 605 passed by the House, in addition to increasing the Statute Limitations to age 38 and the Discovery Rule to 4 years, incorporated significant protections for Entities that would make any claims brought by Victims even more difficult than they otherwise would be considering they have the burden of proof in their cases. In fact, the protections for Entities passed by the Georgia House would make HB 605 the most protective of Entities than any other similar law in the U.S. and would make it incredibly difficult for the Victims. Those protections include:

HB 605/CSFA (House Version) Entity Protections

1) 1 year window to bring otherwise barred claims (line 68);[3]

2) Clear and convincing standard (line 76);[4]

3) Must prove responsibility for the care (lines 72-73);[5]

4) Must prove knew or should have known (line 73);[6]

5) Must prove concealed evidence (line 75).[7]

In the Georgia Senate Committee, however, the Entities won the day and numerous additional protections were added that make HB 605 impossible for the Georgia Victims to even bring claims.  As a result, the Georgia Victims were completely excluded from the bill altogether.  First, the Senate Committee reduced the Statute of Limitations to an arbitrary age of 30 and reduced the Discovery Rule to 2 years despite the mountain of evidence showing the need to increase those numbers.

Also unfortunate is the fact that several of the Senators gutting the bill have conflicts of interest because of their roles within specific Entities lobbying against the bill.  The glaring message is that Senators allowed their personal relationships with Entities to cloud their judgment about what is right for the Citizens of Georgia.

When the Georgia Senate Committee got through with its hatchet job, the Entities were handed a “get out of jail free” card as follows:

LC 29 8109ERS (Senate Committee Version) Entity Protections

1) Window offered only to Victims Age 31 or younger (line 66);[8]

2) Clear and convincing standard (lines 100-103);[9]

3) Must prove responsibility for the care (line 70);[10]

4) Must prove knew or should have known (line 71);[11]

5) Must prove harboring, assisting, concealing, or withholding information. (lines 71-73);[12]

6) Must have Evidence within the previous 12 years. (lines 74-75);[13]

7) Must prove specific elements of harboring, assisting, concealing, or withholding information. (lines 87-99);[14]

8) Must prove “Intentional” conduct (lines 72, 87, 89, 93);[15]

9) Affidavit must be filed (lines 104-148);[16]

10) Doctrine of Laches (lines 149-152);[17] AND

11) OCGA § 19-7-5 Immunity (lines 160-165).[18]

Comparison to Other States

Under the Senate Committee version, all of the evidentiary burdens are light years more difficult than the 46 other states in the U.S. that have passed similar laws, and they essentially fully protect the entities from civil suit.  The Senate Committee version is a transparent attempt at protecting the Entities from civil suits by Georgia Victims.

The fact is Georgia’s law is the 5th worst in the U.S. Passage of the House version of HB 605 would elevate Georgia’s law to the middle of the pack — still nowhere near the top.

  • Eight states have completely eliminated the statute of limitations (SOL) for civil cases due to childhood sexual abuse
  • Only three states utilize an increased burden on the Victim when suing Entities and that burden is gross negligence.
  • Three neighboring states, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Florida, have laws that are more favorable than the House version of HB 605. Florida eliminated the SOL for childhood sexual abuse occurring before age 16.
  • Seven states passed bills stronger than the House version of HB 605 in 2017 alone.
  • 19 states have introduced or passed bills stronger than the House version of HB 605 since 2015.

As written, the Senate Committee version of HB 605 intentionally targets and punishes those brave Georgia Victims who spoke and asked the Georgia Legislature for help. These survivors should be applauded and not excluded.

Under Senate Committee version, ALL of the Georgia Victims that have come forward and asked for help will get no help.  The Senate Committee version rewards the Entities that concealed evidence for all these years and got away with it.  This is cold, calculated and cruel.

Passage of this bill will not open a “floodgate of litigation” because the universe of Georgia Victims is already known to be a small universe as a result of their coming forward during the three years since the passage of the 2015 Hidden Predator Act.  In fact, less than 20 lawsuits were filed after the passage of the 2015 Hidden Predator Act.  And the known Georgia Victims are listed here before you.

In summary, this bill is intended to hold Entities accountable – not for engaging in the abuse, not even for allowing the abuse to happen on their watch, but only for covering up Childhood Sexual Abuse. This is not about the Watergate break-in – it is about the cover-up. It is about compensating the Georgia Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse and holding the Entities accountable for the cover-up orchestrated and carried out by those Entities.

The members of the House heard these Georgia Victims and responded with giving them a shot, a very long shot, but at least a shot. The Senate Committee heard them and intentionally and maliciously excluded them. That is far worse than ignoring them. It’s a crime.  Again. The Senate Committee chose to reward known Entities that literally committed murder (killed their souls) and rewarded them for getting away with it.

Passing the Senate Committee version of HB 605 will result in the immunizing of Entities that have covered up Childhood Sexual Abuse.

[1] See, Child Sex Abuse, Disclosure, and Denial, Margaret Ellen Pipe, et. al. See Chapter 2, pp. 11-39; Disclosure of Child Sexual Abuse: A Review of the Contemporary Empirical Literature, Kamala London, et. al.; Charlotte Gagnier & Delphine Collin-Vezina (2016) The Disclosure Experiences of Male Child Abuse Survivors, Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 25:2, 221-241.

[2] The age range is 32-74.  That is why no states have ever put an age limit on Victim suits.

[3] No other state has incorporated such a short window to file suits.

[4] Only three states increased the burden of proof against Entities and those states adopted gross negligence instead of clear and convincing evidence, which is a tougher standard than gross negligence.

[5] Most other states only require proof of an employment/volunteer relationships and not responsibility for the care.

[6] Not required by other states.

[7] Not required by other states.

[8] No state has ever limited the window for suits to any particular age. And, the youngest Georgia Victim to come forward is 32.  NOT ONE GEORGIA VICTIM WOULD BE ALLOWED TO FILE SUIT UNDER THIS VERSION OF THE LAW.

[9] Only three states increased the burden of proof against Entities and those states adopted gross negligence instead of clear and convincing evidence, which is a tougher standard than gross negligence.

[10] Most other states only require proof of an employment/volunteer relationships and not responsibility for the care.

[11] Not required by other states.

[12] Not required by other states.

[13] Another arbitrary limitation that is not required by any other state.

[14] Not required by any other state.

[15] No state requires proof of intentional conduct.  This requires the Victim to get inside the head of the Entity which is virtually impossible to do.  All but three states require simple negligence.

[16] Only one other state, Hawaii, has a requirement for a “Certification” but it is nowhere near as extensive or arduous as Georgia’s Affidavit requirement.

[17] Unprecedented and not incorporated into any other state’s law on this subject.

[18] Completely unprecedented and not adopted by any other state.  It provides immunity for complying with a mandatory legal requirement that is a crime to fail to do.

Justin Conway (Age 40) Kevin Simmons (Age 53)
Chris Brazell (Age 36) Amberly Waters-Day (Age 52)
Dennis Stoll (Age 39) Steve W. Doe (Age 52)
Steven Hood (Age 36) Hal Word (Age 50)
Steven Tann (Age 34) Chris A. Doe (Age 51)
Christopher Garwood (Age 33) Dr. Ruben M. Doe (Age 48)
Dennis Rose (Age 32) J. C. Johnson (Age 54)
Robb Lawson (Age 46) Bill L. Doe (Age 51)
Jim Lloyd (Age 61) Matt M. Doe (Age 51)
Steve G. Doe (Age 58) J. M. Doe (Age 46)
Ron C. Doe (Age 59) Franklin Simmons (Age 51)
Tim Black (Age 51) D. P. Doe (Age 62)
Tim White (Age 51) Alan McArthur (Age 54)
Kelly Doe (Age 33) J. S. Doe (Age 54)
Mark Eubanks (Age 53) William Huff (Age 74)
Chris Gaba (Age 54) John Smith (Age 35)
Kyle Knight (Age 53) Julia Morris (Age 44)
Timothy Lee (Age 47) Monica Atkins (Age 60)
Anthony L. Doe (Age 52) Melissa Jones (Age 46)
Tom R. Doe (Age 53) Beth Lewis (Age 38)
Andrew Redding (Age 54) Paul Davis (Age 62)
Amy Minor (Age 36) Julia Fuentes (Age 38)
Celeste Fisher (Age 40) Cindy Heath (Age 53)
Donna Flores (Age 55) Jessie Connor (Age 37)
Sam Christian (Age 45) Andy Peterson (Age 55)
Martin Berry (Age 45) Patricia Kim (Age 61)
Sally Kris (Age 54) Michael Sylvester (Age 52)
Emily Osborne (Age 46) Cynthia Stewart (Age 40)
Jennifer Sirch (Age 35)

 

One comment on “Georgia Senate Changes to Hidden Predator Act Leaves Victims Behind (March 26, 2018)”

  • Kathleen Cason says:

    I am doing research on the Hidden Predator Act of 2018 and wondered if you can point me to a reference for the following statement on your web page: “The fact is Georgia’s law is the 5th worst in the U.S. Passage of the House version of HB 605 would elevate Georgia’s law to the middle of the pack — still nowhere near the top.

    Thanks so much.

    Reply

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