Pa. lawmakers push to introduce new legislation allowing sexual abuse victims to sue abusers

This Week in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — A human error by the Pa. Department of State cost sex abuse victims their shot at justice. So what now?

Victims of childhood sexual abuse were so close to tossing the statute of limitations shackles and earning the freedom to sue their abusers.

“You get this punch in the gut and it’s devastating,” said state Rep. Mark Rozzi (D-Berks), a sex abuse survivor.

A clerical error, the state’s failure to notify the public of the constitutional amendment kills it for at least two more years.

“Clearly a matter of incompetence by the Department of State and the poor victims trying to seek justice,” Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R) said.

Some lawmakers are seeking solutions, like re-introducing a bill to open a two-year civil window for victims to bring suit.

“Exactly the same thing that was gonna be on the ballot just a statutory change,” Senator Katie Muth (D- Chester, Montgomery, Berks) said.

But Muth is a Democrat in a Senate controlled by Republicans.

“Corman has the power to say ‘enough is enough’ and pass statutory change now,” Rozzi said.

Senate Pro Tempore Corman replaced Joe Scarnati, who blocked a retroactive window for victims. Corman said he’ll listen, but has the same reservations.

“It’s an option for the legislature, but the problem is that many members of the Senate Republican caucus believe it’s unconstitutional,” Corman said.

Senator Muth simply doesn’t want the state Senate to make the same mistake twice.

“Considering the tragedy that occurred in State College with Jerry Sandusky, I hope Senator Corman will listen to his constituents and do better than Scarnati did,” Muth said.

Victims feel twice-abused by the Constitution– and that legal notice requirement for amendments –and its refusal to yield on the Statute of Limitations.

“There are victims that won’t make it to see this bill passed, unfortunately. They’re devastated. Their lives are already crushed,” Rozzi said.

Courts have repeatedly struck down retroactivity clauses in Pennsylvania, but the Governor has said he’d sign it, and the Attorney General has signaled he thinks it’s legal.

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