HARRISBURG, April 15 – The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a bill this week reforming the statute of limitations regarding child sexual abuse cases, state Rep. Pamela A. DeLissio announced.
The bill would abolish the criminal statute of limitations for future criminal prosecutions for serious child sexual abuse crimes relating to human trafficking, sexual servitude, rape, statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, institutional sexual assault, aggravated indecent sexual assault and incest. The bill also would waive sovereign immunity for state and local public institutions in cases of gross negligence, which would allow civil cases to be filed against them.
“This is a bill of historical proportion for survivors of sexual abuse, in particular those who became victims in their childhood,” said DeLissio, D-Montgomery/Phila. “Through the efforts of many advocates over more than a decade, the Pennsylvania House came to recognize that predators were not being identified in a timely manner and therefore not indicted or convicted for their crimes. The most recent grand jury report of the cover-ups that occurred as recently as three years ago in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown was the final straw for many of my colleagues.”
It also would increase the length of time, from age 30 to age 50, for when child sexual abuse victims could file civil claims. As amended by the House on Monday, this provision would be retroactive, so that civil suits could be filed no matter when the crime occurred, as long as the survivor meets the age criteria.
“It can take decades for survivors of child sex abuse to process the trauma and to report it,” DeLissio said. “Giving them the opportunity to seek prosecution over a longer period of time would ensure that justice is served.”
The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
“This legislation also sends a message to abusers that they can no longer hide behind antiquated state laws that once protected predators,” she said. “I’m proud to stand with my colleagues and look forward to seeing swift action taken in the Senate.”