By: Michael Gorsegner
HARRISBURG, Pa. — A group of legislators are pushing for Pennsylvania to change some of its child sex abuse laws on Monday. The expanded bills would allow victims of abuse a longer time to report the crimes and get compensation.
Research shows that it often takes victims of child sex abuse years to report the crimes. That’s why there is a renewed push to get this done and protect children.
Many times child sex abuse is an untold crime, taking years for the truth to come out.
“Victims just don’t come forward,” Representative Mark Rozzi of Berks County, said. “We know that. That’s a fact.”
Representative Rozzi knows the uphill battle an abused child faces. When he was 13-years-old, he says he was assaulted by a priest. It took him 26 years before he had the nerve to let this issue come to light.
“There are past victims of abuse that unfortunately got caught up in the institutional of we are moving these guys around and we are not going to call the cops,” Rep. Rozzi said.
That’s why a group of bipartisan lawmakers are pushing for several changes.
First, the group wants to raise the statute of limitations on civil cases from age 30 to 50, putting it in line with the criminal code, giving more time for victims to try and get compensation.
The second push is even further reaching, pushing to get rid of statute of limitations on these types of crimes all together.
“Eliminate the criminal and civil statutes moving forward, prospectively,” said Rep. Rozzi.
Another idea is much more controversial. Rep. Rozzi and his supporters are proposing to allow past victims who saw their statute of limitations run out, the ability to go back and file civil suits against them. This could open the door for hundreds and thousands of new cases to move forward.
“It was a big cover-up and these victims need justice,” he said.
But some are worried that “justice” may come at a huge cost. When similar bills like these were introduced, groups like the Catholic Conference and Insurance Federation opposed them. They are worried that if anyone who was abused in the past is allowed to try and come after them, with no age restrictions, people will now come out of the woodwork claiming that they were abused by priests to try and get money.
These new bills were introduced and recommended to committee last week.
A news conference is scheduled for Monday at 10 a.m. to lay out the push.