One of the most frustrating roadblocks in pursuing justice for victims of sex abuse is the statute of limitations. Pennsylvania SOL laws tend to be more generous than those in other states, but they nonetheless prevent many victims from pursuing a civil lawsuit, criminal charges, or both.
Statutes of limitations are even more problematic for victims who suffered sex abuse in childhood. The experience can be so traumatic that it is common for victims to block out these painful memories for decades. By the time they come to terms with their abuse and are prepared to file suit against their abuser, statutes of limitations may have already expired.
Thankfully, certain Pennsylvania legislators remain dedicated to helping victims pursue justice. One recently proposed bill would raise the civil SOL for childhood sex abuse from age 30 (in most cases) to age 50. This change would increase the civil SOL to match the criminal SOL in such cases.
An alternatively proposed bill is even more ambitious. It would essentially abolish all criminal and civil SOL restrictions for cases of childhood sex abuse.
It is unclear if either of these bills will pass in the near future, but there are many advocates working to raise public awareness about the especially difficult nature of SOL restriction in child sex abuse cases.
One advocate who recently commented on the legislation is the vice president of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. She said: "It's high time that we accept that delayed reporting (of sexual abuse by victims) is the norm. We have recently seen glaring examples of this in the Boy Scouts, in religious institutions, in schools and most recently with the allegations against Bill Cosby. It's time for us to stop asking why... and finally change our laws so they are based in reality."
If you have suffered sex abuse in childhood or adulthood, the typical SOL restrictions may or may not apply in your case. Please don't discount your legal options until you've had the chance to share your story with an experienced and compassionate crime victims' attorney.
Source: Penn Live, "Advocates for child sexual abuse victims push for longer window to seek justice," Charles Thompson, March 2, 2015