In a vote of 48-0, the Pennsylvania state Senate has approved legislation that would give survivors of child sexual abuse an opportunity to seek justice in the civil courts.
The bill, which essentially reopens an old debate with the state House in the new legislative session, would give child victims until age 50 to bring civil lawsuits against abusers or those employers who were allegedly negligent in failing to stop them.
At present, the window to sue expires at age 30. It would also eliminate any statute of limitations on criminal prosecutions for child sexual abuse.
The victory in the Senate does not mean that the legislation will necessarily become law in the Keystone State. First, it must be reconciled with a much more restrictive bill in the House. The House did add a retroactive provision in their bill which would give survivors a two year window to file sexual abuse lawsuits.
“We’re hopeful that the House will take it under careful consideration,” said Jennifer Kocher, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre. “We could move something forward for survivors of child sex abuse rather than offer them nothing.”
House GOP spokesman Steve Miskin said the House will try to reach a consensus between the two chambers to “send a very strong bill with a strong message for victims to the governor.”
The new legislation comes in the wake of multiple grand jury investigations that have found hundreds of cases of sexual abuse involving Pennsylvania Catholic priests and the cover-up of the crimes by the state’s bishops over a period spanning the last fifty years. Each Pennsylvania grand jury investigation has made it more difficult for the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania to deny or minimize the extend of the problem of child sex abuse in the state.
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