Individuals silenced for decades by shame and confusion of sex abuse must be heard. The State House has done it’s part. The focus now shifts to the Senate and the ever-ticking clock to revise Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations regarding sex abuse crimes.
This should be simple. Victims of criminal sexual abuse — including those whose courage is outlined in more than 1,000 pages of a state grand jury report on 300 “predator” Catholic priests across the commonwealth — deserve nothing less.
When it reconvenes next week for its final three scheduled legislative days before November’s election, the Senate seems more likely to move a new piece of legislation than amend a version that passed the House last month. The House version was praised by victims and advocates.
The House reform raises the age to file lawsuits from 30 to 50 years of age and eliminates the statute of limitation entirely for criminal prosecutions. Additionally, there would be a two-year window to allow sex abuse survivors — whose trauma occurred decades ago — to file a civil lawsuit.
The Senate is balking at the civil lawsuit window, questioning its constitutionality. State Attorney General Josh Shapiro says it is legal. That should end that argument.
Lawmakers have an obligation to do something and do it soon. Many victims want acknowledgement, their day in court and their voices to finally be heard. Money is not the object.
They want accountability.
“The public is demanding a change,” said state Rep. Mark Rozzi, a victim of abuse by a priest when he was 13. “And not only are Pennsylvanians watching, the world is watching.”
There are three options for the Senate: Do nothing; create its own watered-down version and send back to the House; or pass something similar to the House’s measure, allowing the bodies reach a similar resolution.
Right now the Senate is stalling. Behind the scenes maneuvering is underway to limit the legislation, a tactic likely pushed by the Catholic Church, the insurance industry and other lobbyists.
A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre County, said last week the legislation will be considered next week. Jennifer Kocher, Sen. Corman’s spokeswoman, said the bill that will emerge from the Senate “will provide justice for the victims and options for compensation.”
These victims deserve and demand their day in court. Right now, the only thing standing in the way of their decades-deserved justice is the state Senate and the lobbyists.