Rolling Stone: Alleged Rapists Are Suing Their Accusers. A New California Law Aims to Deter That
September 20. 2023
ERA Policy Director & Deputy Legal Director Jessica Ramey Stender is quoted in a Rolling Stone article about ERA-sponsored California bill AB 933, which would protect survivors of sexual misconduct from retaliator defamation lawsuits:
“Across the board, we’re seeing this really troubling trend of the person who harmed the survivor filing completely baseless and retaliatory defamation claims with the clear intent to silence them,” Jessica Stender, policy director at Equal Rights Advocates, a non-profit group that co-sponsored the bill, tells Rolling Stone.
Stender says regardless of how valid the defamation claim is, the suits can have a “chilling effect” among sexual assault survivors, especially in cases where the person they accuse has more money, power and resources to pursue litigation. “In a situation of sexual harassment or sexual assault, you’re often already dealing with a power imbalance between the harmer and the survivor,” Stender says. “The survivor often doesn’t have the resources to find a lawyer or engage in expensive litigation. Although the survivor might ultimately prevail, it often takes years of extended and possibly re-traumatizing legal proceedings to actually win.”
“We are hopeful that the strengthening of our defamation law will help to deter predators from even bringing these weaponized defamation claims in the first place,” Stender says, adding that she hopes to see similar legislation arise in other states across the country. “The bill makes it crystal clear that when a survivor is speaking about their experience of harassment or assault, that is protected speech.”