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Pa. commission looks to strengthen child sex abuse laws - abc27 WHTM

Pa. commission looks to strengthen child sex abuse laws

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

The Sandusky scandal isn't just a state college case. It's being felt at the state Capitol.
A legislative commission is exploring if state laws need to be changed.

Monday at an emotional hearing, several victims of sex abuse complained that if they don't come forward by the age of 30, they can't sue their abusers. They told their stories to lawmakers and one legislator admitted that she too was a victim.

It looked like a typical Capitol hearing but it didn't sound like it. There was a former Philadelphia Eagle abused by a cop, and a filmmaker abused by a coach. Several victims asked lawmakers to remove the statute of limitations to charge and sue abusers.

John Salvason of the Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse said he was abused by a priest.
"It's rare that people can come forward and talk about this [before] they are into their 40's and 50's," he said. "It's because it's so traumatic you don't want to admit to yourself. It's usually a secret."

A secret that Philly state lawmaker Louise bishop kept for 60 years until recently admitting publicly that she was abused as a little girl. Her bill would let victims come forward at any age. "Children can't because they pretend it didn't exist," she said.

Charles Gallagher is a prosecutor from Philly. He's Catholic, But he took on the church for protecting pedophile priests. He says the church is trying to block Bishop's bill because it would cost them millions in payouts to victims.

"One of the arguments they make is that you're trying to kill the church and deplete them of all their resources," he said. "We're not picking on the church. We're picking on predators and enablers."

Supporters say the only way to get the attention of big institutions is for them to lose big lawsuits.
Victims say it's not about the money

People want justice and they just want their abusers named and want somebody to acknowledge what happened to them," Salvason said.

Bishop says that ironically, Sandusky might just help sex abuse victims afterall. Since his case, a handful of co-sponsors to her bill has become a long list

"I think the Sandusky case is going to get it passed. I think it's gonna be the vehicle that wakes everybody up," she said.

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