New California laws aid sexual assault victims, those hurt by other crimes

SACRAMENTO — More than 100 suspected victims of a UCLA obstetrician-gynecologist will have more time to file legal claims against the doctor and university under one of nine measures California Gov. Gavin Newsom approved Tuesday to aid crime survivors.

Similar to previous provisions in different cases, the legislation allows a one-year window — all of 2021 — to file claims that could otherwise have been too late under existing statutes of limitations. The bill is specific to UCLA and responds to allegations that Dr. James Heaps, who worked at the university's student health centers and its medical center, committed dozens of sexual assaults.

It's unclear how many of the more than 100 women who have made claims against Heaps will benefit from the bill, according to a legislative analysis. It would mainly aid those who were assaulted more than 10 years ago , or who discovered or reasonably should have discovered the source of their injury more than three years ago.

Newsom also signed legislation changing the statute of limitations in fertility fraud crimes, from three years after the crime occurred to one year after the victim learns of the crime. Newsom said victims may not learn for many years if they were subjected to the illegal use or implantation of sperm, ova or embryos in assisted reproductions.

Another bill gives victims and witnesses immunity if they testify about their use of illegal drugs or alcohol at the time of a sexual assault, a measure designed to encourage their testimony in court.

The state will eliminate a 10% cash or in-kind matching requirement for state grants to domestic violence shelters under another measure.

A separate measure expands the legal definition of domestic violence to include threatening force or intimidation, coercive control or depriving the victim of basic needs. Newsom and the co-author of that measure said both are needed particularly because of a reported increase in domestic violence since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Like COVID-19, domestic abuse isn’t always visible or limited to physical violence, and it’s time we updated the law to reflect that reality," Sen. Ling Ling Chang said.


The bill is AB3092

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