Could the Grand Jury Report on Child Sex Abuse Change Pennsylvania Law?

On August 14, 2018, a state grand jury released a startling report. Over 1,000 Pennsylvania children were sexually victimized by more than 300 priests over the course of 70 years. However, many of these victims are unable to seek justice due to Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations on sex crimes. That limitation may soon change.

How a Report About Child Sex Abuse Could Soon Change Pennsylvania Law

Protestors gathered around the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg on an important mission. They showed support for a House Bill to change the statute of limitations for sex crimes in our state. Currently, a civil filing for a sexual abuse claim must happen within two years of the abuse if the victim is an adult, or 12 years after the victim’s 18th birthday. This bill would lift the statute of limitations completely for two years. That action would allow survivors over the age of 30 to sue for the sexual abuse they endured as children.

In light of the grand jury report, such legislation would seem simple to pass. The House voted 171-23 to amend the bill in consideration of recommendations from the state grand jury report on September 24. On September 25, the bill passed the House 173-21 and is now in the hands of the PA Senate. However, supporters of this change have fought this battle before. In 2016, a similar measure was passed in the House but was killed when sent to the Senate. The new grand jury report that reignited this issue has given some lawmakers new perspective, but has it affected enough Senators?

State Senator Daylin Leach, who voted against the 2016 measure, says this new report has changed his mind. Meanwhile, other Senators remain skeptical. Majority Leader Jake Corman and President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati have serious reservations. They claim the bill has not implemented all the grand jury’s recommendations. The Senate has paused voting on the bill, though Corman says these concerns will be addressed within days.

Do you think this new measure will be passed? Will the victims of seven decades of abuse finally get to pursue justice against their abusers? Because civil lawsuits for sexual assault can include parties other than the criminal who committed the assault, the Catholic Church could be held liable for its part in covering up these crimes if this bill becomes law.

The sexual assault lawyers at Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C. are here to help survivors hold responsible parties accountable. When a Philadelphia police officer was accused of victimizing a young woman for decades, we helped her pursue justice. When the Boy Scouts and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints failed to protect a young scout, our firm filed a complaint to help strengthen protections for scouts. We have also partnered with the Take Back the Night Foundation to help survivors of sexual assault on college campuses. So, we will continue to monitor this historic development in Pennsylvania law and keep survivors informed.

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