CA Gov. Newsom Signs MeToo Bill AB 933, Protecting Survivors from Predatory Defamation Lawsuits Meant to Silence Them
October 11. 2023
For Immediate Release
Oct 11, 2023
SACRAMENTO – On Oct. 10, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a crucial #MeToo bill, Assembly Bill 933 (Aguiar-Curry), that will better protect survivors of sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination from retaliatory and baseless defamation lawsuits filed by those who harmed them. The bill is co-sponsored by nonprofits Equal Rights Advocates and CA Employment Lawyers Association.
AB 933, which will go into effect Jan. 1, 2024, will strengthen California defamation law to better shield survivors from weaponized use of defamation claims, and help ensure other survivors are not discouraged from coming forward to report similar claims. It is a major win for the movement to expose and end sexual assault and harassment.
“We must ensure that our laws are not weaponized against survivors.”
Jessica Ramey Stender, ERA Policy Director
“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.”
Since many survivors have been empowered to speak out in the wake of the MeToo movement, advocates have seen a growing trend of serial harassers attempting to silence or retaliate against their victims by filing defamation lawsuits, or threatening to do so. Even though the defamation claims are often meritless and would not ultimately succeed in court, many survivors back down on their claims because they’re suddenly faced with the threat of financial ruin via legal fees and possible reputational and/or professional consequences.
Advocates say AB 933 will help ensure survivors are able to speak out after being harmed and reclaim their agency.
“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.”
Sexual assault is already drastically underreported, as survivors fear disbelief or punishment for speaking out—an often-founded result. The threat of having to engage in years of litigation, relive the personal trauma of abuse in court, and take on the burden of responding to an expensive lawsuit also causes a chilling effect in reporting, discouraging others from coming forward to expose predatory behavior. Advocates say AB 933 will help ensure survivors are able to speak out after being harmed and reclaim their agency.
“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.”
The bill is part of the Stronger California 2023 Legislative Agenda, an annual policy agenda from 60+ nonprofit and advocacy organizations across the state to advance economic justice for women and families.
About Equal Rights Advocates
Equal Rights Advocates fights for gender justice in workplaces and schools across the country. Since 1974, they have been fighting on the front lines of social justice to protect and advance rights and opportunities for women, girls, and people of all gender identities through groundbreaking legal cases and bold legislation that sets the stage for the rest of the nation.