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PA legislators seek bills to help childhood sex abuse victims sue

A couple weeks ago, we wrote that California legislators were attempting to pass a bill that would temporarily suspend the statute of limitations for cases of childhood sexual abuse. The legislation seeks to allow victims who suffered sexual abuse as a child to file lawsuits even if they are outside the statute of limitations.

Recently, one Pennsylvania lawmaker held a press conference to announce that similar legislation will be introduced here. Representative Mark Rozzi has been a vocal advocate for victims of child sexual abuse ever since he publicly shared his own heartbreaking experiences about four years ago.

Rozzi has said that as a 13-year-old boy, he was sexually abused by a Catholic priest. He now wants to pass legislation that makes it easier for victims to sue when they become adults and are able to come to terms with their abuse.

Currently, Pennsylvania law only gives childhood sex abuse victims until the age of 30 to file a civil lawsuit against their abuser. But as Rozzi notes, there are cases in which victims repress these painful memories for decades. And even if they do start to work through the trauma before age 30, some victims may not be ready to open up about what happened to them.

A soon-to-be-introduced Senate bill will match one already introduced in the House. If passed, the bills would:

  • Raise the age limit for filing a civil lawsuit from age 30 to age 50
  • Suspend the statute of limitations for a period of two years; thus allowing some childhood sex abuse victims to file new (or revive dismissed) civil lawsuits against their abusers
  • Allow victims to sue public officials and institutions by eliminating the "sovereign immunity" defense

Some lawmakers and groups strongly oppose the legislation; most notably the Catholic Church. In response to the Church's objections, Rep. Rozzi argued that "If the church would have done what it was originally supposed to do when they knew the priests were sexually abusing children and exposed them to the police department instead of moving them around, those priests would be in jail and we would not be in this position … this is the only recourse we have."

Hopefully, Pennsylvania lawmakers will do the right thing and this very important piece of legislation will be passed.

 

Source: PennLive.com, "Pa. lawmakers push for extending statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims," Jan Murphy, Sept. 25, 2013

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