Pa. lawmaker wants to end time limits on claims of child sex abuse

A lawsuit filed Wednesday against the Philadelphia Archdiocese brings new abuse and cover-up claims.  Pennsylvania law gives childhood abuse survivors until the age of 50 to bring criminal charges, and until age 30 to file civil suits. That’s as long as the statute of limitations had not expired when the age limits were extended almost a decade ago.

Two Philadelphia lawmakers want to open the window of opportunity even wider.

In fact, state Rep. Louise Williams Bishop’s bill would abolish the statute of limitations on both criminal and civil lawsuits for child sexual abuse going forward. “A lot of people come to me, I don’t know why they do, perhaps it’s because I’m a minister.  Perhaps they think being a minister would make me sensitive and being a legislator would make me act,” she said. “But a few men have come to me and told me that they had been abused in their childhood.” A bill introduced by state Rep. Mike McGeehan, would open a two-year window for adult victims of childhood abuse to sue in civil court.  He said if it can be shown that people are directly responsible for hurting children or putting them in harm’s way, those people should be prosecuted as in any other case.  McGeehan said that’s the only way to keep organizations accountable for the actions of their personnel.

Lawyer Marci Hamilton supports both bills.

“I think elimination (of the statute of limitations) going forward is extremely important because it sends a message to every child that’s being sexually abused right now–whether in the family, or at school, or wherever it is, that when they’re ready, they can go and they can get the help.” She said. “And I think that will make it easier for victims to come forward.”

Hamilton represents a number of victims who have filed lawsuits against the church.

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