Clock ticking for legislature to abolish time limits in sexual abuse cases

Local News

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Time is running out for Pennsylvania legislators to change the law that prevents many older victims of child sexual abuse from seeking justice against their attackers.

Senate Bill 261 was voted out of the House of Representatives last week, but the future of the amended bill in the Senate is uncertain.

The legislation would change the statute of limitations that bars people older than 30 from suing for childhood abuse. Victims would have until age 50 to file a lawsuit. In cases where the limitation period has already expired, the legislation would give survivors a two-year window to file lawsuits.

The bill also would eliminate prosecution time limits on child sexual abuse crimes including rape, trafficking, sexual servitude, and incest going forward. Current law bars prosecution after a victim turns 50.

“The base bill itself is a really good bill, and that’s something that’s being lost in the conversation quite frequently,” Senate Republican spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said.

Kocher says they are committed to getting something done in time for the House to take up any changes. 

Rep. Mark Rozzi, who was abused by a priest as a child, says his language opening the two-year window for lawsuits is a must.

“That two-year window of opportunity must be in the legislation or I will block it from moving forward,” he said. 

But in the Senate, it’s still up for debate. Some lawmakers say retroactive changes to the statute of limitations law violate the state constitution.

“We haven’t taken anything off the table for options for what we will consider, how we will move forward with this,” Kocher said.

“If we don’t do anything at all, those individual victims will have no recourse whatsoever,” Senate minority leader Jay Costa said. “They don’t have it today, and they won’t have it going forward.”

The House and Senate have their final session day on October 17, but they could add days to get the bill to the governor’s desk.

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