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Assemblymembers’ Aguiar-Curry & Ward Legislation to Protect Survivors of Sexual Assault, Harassment, and Discrimination from Weaponized Defamation Lawsuits Signed by Governor

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO, CA – Assembly Speaker pro Tempore Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters) and Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego) announced today that their bill, AB 933, has been signed by Governor Gavin Newsom. AB 933 will protect survivors of sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination from weaponized defamation lawsuits by strengthening the legal protections of survivors who may face retaliation for speaking publicly about their personal experiences. 

“An act of sexual assault is committed every 68 seconds, and sexual violence does not just affect women - it happens to people of every gender identity, age, and sexual orientation,” said Assembly Speaker pro Tempore Aguiar-Curry. “AB 933 protects survivors from revenge lawsuits when they have the courage to come forward to put a stop to abuse – their act of bravery exposes predators and makes our communities safer.”

“Far too often, perpetrators of sexual misconduct, abuse, assault, and harassment use the court system to punish survivors for speaking out about their abuse. This further victimizes those who bravely choose to come forward,” said Assemblymember Ward. “The Protecting Survivors from Weaponized Defamation Lawsuits Act will protect them from being silenced and lift up the voices of survivors so they can freely share their experiences without fear of retaliation.”

The #MeToo movement allowed many assault and harassment survivors to bravely join countless others in sharing their stories on a national platform in solidarity. At the same time, it unveiled a toxic and predatory culture that persists across all sectors of employment and society. While survivors courageously came forward, many were slapped with defamation lawsuits, which have become the weapon of choice by perpetrators seeking to intimidate, punish, and silence their accusers. 

Existing law makes certain publications and speech - including complaints of sexual harassment – privileged and protected from civil defamation actions. However, these protections are limited. AB 933 will expand protections for speech made by a survivor about their experience of sexual assault, harassment, or discrimination, but does not apply to unfounded claims.

AB 933 will make it harder for perpetrators to retaliate against survivors with legal threats and intimidation, and will help take the burden off of survivors by providing reasonable attorneys’ fees and damages if they successfully defend themselves against meritless defamation lawsuits.

“We must ensure that our laws are not weaponized against survivors,” said Jessica Ramey Stender, Policy Director & Deputy Legal Director of Equal Rights Advocates. “Serial predators are using retaliatory defamation lawsuits to silence those who speak out and to discourage other survivors from coming forward for fear of enduring expensive, retraumatizing, and drawn-out litigation. We are proud to stand with Assemblymembers Aguiar-Curry and Ward in advancing AB 933 to combat this abuse and applaud Governor Newsom for signing this important measure into law.”

“AB 933 will ensure survivors of sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination are adequately protected from retaliatory defamation lawsuits by clarifying that claims made in good faith are a form of protected speech,” said Mariko Yoshihara, Policy Director for the California Employment Lawyers Association. “We applaud the Governor for signing this important piece of legislation that will stop abusers from weaponizing our justice system against those who speak out.”

Assembly Speaker pro Tempore Aguiar-Curry represents the 4th Assembly District, which includes all of Lake, Colusa, Napa, and Yolo Counties, and parts of Sonoma County. Assemblymember Ward represents the 78th Assembly District, which includes represents San Diego and El Cajon.