It was a powerful moment for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse when New York passed the Adult Survivors Act. The legislation empowers adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse by allowing them to seek justice, essentially re-opening a legal doorway many abuse victims thought was forever shut. The Adult Survivors Act lifted the statute of limitations. For survivors of sexual assault who were over 18 when the assault occurred, it offers a two-year look-back window to file a civil lawsuit against their abuser.
Now, Pennsylvania could be on the precipice of enacting similar legislation, potentially changing the statute of limitations and opening up new legal options for adult survivors of sexual abuse who seek justice.
At Hach & Rose, LLP, we keep our eyes on legislative actions that may impact Pennsylvania victims of sexual abuse. Our legal team is currently hard at work investigating sexual abuse claims and preparing for the possible passage of a new law that would allow us to help sexual abuse victims. We want to help them seek the justice and compensation they deserve.
If you are the victim of a sexual offense in Pennsylvania and want to learn more about how reforming the civil statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse in Pennsylvania may impact you, contact our office today.
What Does this Legislation Do?
The two pieces of legislation Pennsylvania lawmakers are debating would temporarily waive the statute of limitations for sex abuse crimes. Childhood victims of sexual abuse could suddenly find themselves able to sue the perpetrator of abuse in civil court, seeking compensation for their injuries and losses. The legislation opens a two-year retroactive window for adult survivors to sue their abusers and the institutions that protected them, even if the statute of limitations has expired.
House Speaker Mark Rozzi (D) has been a vocal advocate of the measure and has spoken publicly about his abuse by a Catholic priest as a teenager. Numerous lawmakers have come out supporting the legislation, saying it is time to give victims the ability to fight back.
The History of Pennsylvania Childhood Sexual Abuse Legislation
Legislation allowing adult victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue perpetrators has been in the works in Pennsylvania for years. Unfortunately, there’s been little progress in giving childhood sexual abuse victims the ability to seek the justice they deserve until recently. At the beginning of 2023, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf called legislators to the capitol for a special session to vote on legislation addressing childhood sexual abuse.
Changes to Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations on sexual abuse crimes have been proposed as far back as 2018, when a report by a statewide grand jury peeled back the layers of a decades-long cover-up to hide child sexual abuse by Catholic church members. However, advocates of changing the state’s statute of limitations believe they need the measure to pass as a constitutional amendment to withstand potential legal challenges. Passing a constitutional amendment is a monumental challenge that can take years.
First, changes to the state constitution require a proposal to get approval from the legislature in two consecutive sessions before the proposed change goes to Pennsylvania voters. A measure passed the required two times and could have appeared as a referendum on the May 2021 ballot. However, the Department of State failed to advertise the amendment in newspapers, hurting the measure and leading to the high-profile resignation of Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State, Kathy Boockvar.
The measure again passed the two required sessions, but hurdles may still prevent it from making it to Pennsylvania voters.
What Happens Next and When Can Victims Seek Justice?
Unfortunately, it is unclear when Pennsylvania lawmakers will agree on legislation childhood sexual abuse victims to seek justice for what they were made to suffer. Although momentum for the measure was growing, the bill has reached a stalemate as lawmakers argue over three bundled constitutional questions. The Republican majority in the Senate is not working with the Democratic majority in the House to advance the measure.
At stake is the statute of limitations on childhood sex crimes. However, two additional constitutional amendments tacked onto the Senate bill are causing concerns. One would require Pennsylvania voters to present identification every time they voted. The other would give the General Assembly the final say over specific regulations, which most lawmakers oppose. If the House and Senate agree to pass the legislation, all three amendments would appear as separate ballot questions on the November ballot, not just the amendment on childhood sexual abuse.
Democrats support keeping the sexual assault window open to victims of abuse. However, Republicans want voter ID amendments and the possibility of rolling back vital environmental regulations to stay on the table and head to Pennsylvania voters.
At Hach & Rose, LLP, we are watching these developments closely and are prepared to act on behalf of adult survivors of sex abuse as soon as the legislature takes the steps towards justice and accountability it should.
How an Experienced Attorney Can Help
At Hach & Rose, LLP, our legal team is committed to staying up-to-date on current events that can impact our clients. We are closely monitoring the bills’ progress. We are also actively investigating cases so we can be ready to help victims of childhood sexual abuse seek justice if and when the statute passes.
If you are an adult victim of childhood sexual abuse and have questions about pursuing a lawsuit against an abuser or institution, discuss your unique situation with an experienced sexual abuse survivor’s attorney. Although the legislation would temporarily suspend the statute of limitations, there are still strict legal deadlines to manage. An attorney can help you navigate the complicated process and understand your legal rights under the proposed legislation.
Contact an Experienced Sexual Abuse Survivor Attorney Today
Need more information about your legal rights and holding a sexual abuser responsible for their actions? At Hach & Rose, LLP, our attorneys are here to answer your questions and support you through this challenging time.
If you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, contact our office today to arrange a risk-free legal consultation about your case.