Published On: Tue, Nov 26th, 2019

Pennsylvania gives child sexual abuse victims more time to sue

(L to R) Rep. Mark Rozzi, Gov. Tom Wolf, Attorney General Josh Shapiro

Gov. Wolf on Tuesday signed legislation that allows future victims of child sexual abuse more time to file lawsuits, ends time limits for police to file criminal charges, eliminates secrecy agreements that effectively silence victims, and stiffens penalties for failing to report abuse by those mandated to do so.

The three bills mirror the Grand Jury’s recommendations after its investigation into child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.

“After tireless and passionate work on the part of so many, especially countless brave victims, these bills will today become law, and victims of one of the most unimaginable forms of abuse will receive the support and rights they deserve,” Gov. Wolf said.

Gov. Wolf signed these bills:

House Bill 962, sponsored by Rep. Mark Rozzi, abolishes Pennsylvania’s criminal statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse and extends the timeline victims have to file civil action against their abusers; extends civil statute of limitations for victims age 18-24 until the age of 30; extends the criminal statute of limitations for criminal proceedings for victims age 18-24 for 20 years; and provides counseling services for victims of sexual assault via the Crime Victims Compensation fund through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

House Bill 1051, sponsored by Rep. Todd Stephens, increases penalties for failure to report child abuse by a mandated reporter.

House Bill 1171, sponsored by Rep. Tarah Toohil, makes conversations with law enforcement agents exempt from non-disclosure agreements.

“This year, I worked directly with House and Senate leadership to craft legislation to get statute of limitations reform over the finish line, given the political dynamic here in Pennsylvania,” said Rep. Mark Rozzi. “While my House Bill 962 provides for prospective reforms, House Bill 963, offered by Rep. Jim Gregory, puts the retroactive window before voters in the form of a constitutional amendment.”

“Anyone who knows of ongoing child abuse and fails to act will face harsh penalties under the law,” commented Rep. Todd Stephens.

“There are survivors of childhood abuse out there with these non-disclosure agreements who believe they are still unable to come forward. Many of them have been silenced for decades,” said Rep. Tarah Toohil. “It is clearly stated in the new law that these survivors are able to provide information to law enforcement regarding their abuse, even if such an agreement is in place.”

In addition to the bill signing, the governor lent his support to House Bill 963, sponsored by Rep. Jim Gregory, which amends the Pennsylvania constitution to create a two-year revival window in which victims can file civil charges in old cases. This piece of legislation must pass two consecutive legislative sessions before it goes on the ballot for voters to determine if the constitutional amendment will take place.

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