House moves 2 bills to help clergy abuse victims

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The state House of Representatives has approved a pair of bills recommended by the grand jury that investigated child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.

One of the bills sent to the Senate on Wednesday would increase penalties when someone fails to report ongoing child sexual abuse. House Bill 1051 makes it a third-degree felony for an ongoing failure to report continuing sexual abuse “while a person knows or has reasonable cause to believe the abuser is likely to commit additional acts.”

The other bill addresses confidentiality agreements in criminal investigations of child sexual abuse claims. House Bill 1171 states that no past or future confidentiality agreements can prohibit victims from communicating with law enforcement at any time.

“There are victims out there in Pennsylvania who have these non-disclosure agreements and they believe they are still unable to come forward,” said Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne), sponsor of House Bill 1171. “As a result of this legislation, it will be clearly stated in the law that victims are able to provide information to law enforcement regarding their abuse, even if such an agreement is in place.”

The House last week passed legislation to eliminate the statute of limitations for serious sex crimes against children, give victims of child sexual abuse until age 55 to sue their abusers, and create a two-year window for victims to file civil lawsuits if they’ve already passed the age limit.

Current law says charges can’t be filed when the victim is older than 50 and victims can’t sue after the age of 30.

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