Senate committee approves child sex abuse legislation

Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously passed three bills aimed at reforming the state’s statute of limitations law on Monday.

House Bill 962 would allow victims of childhood sexual abuse until the age of 55 to file a lawsuit against their abuser. The current law gives them until age 30. The bill would also eliminate the criminal statute.​

The bill was amended to allow payment for counseling to be paid from the victims’ compensation fund.​

House Bill 1171 would clearly state that confidentiality agreements cannot prohibit someone from speaking to law enforcement.​

House Bill 963 would amend the state constitution to allow older sexual abuse survivors a two-year window to retroactively file lawsuits against their offenders and organizations. It would have to pass in two consecutive sessions before voters decide whether to pass it.​

Changes to Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations law were recommended by the grand jury that found more than 300 Roman Catholic priests and other clergy members sexually abused children since the 1940s.

The two-year window had been opposed by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati in previous sessions, but he says he supports the current bill.​

“I am supportive of the four House bills (House Bill 962, House Bill 963, House Bill 1051 and House Bill 1171) currently in the Senate to address all four of the grand jury recommendations. I have been influenced by my oath of office to uphold the Constitution and I remain hopeful that all parties involved can come together to move these important reforms forward,” Scarnati said in a statement.​

“Anytime we have Senate leadership saying they’re ready, they’re ready to vote on these bills affirmatively, that’s huge. That’s what we need. We need everybody to come together for the greater good of victims and get this done,” victim advocate Jennifer Storm said. “It’s a good step in the right direction, but we want to leave here this week with statute of limitations reform done.”​

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