HARRISBURG – The Senate approved a comprehensive package of bills today to support survivors of sexual abuse, including legislation to reform the statute of limitations to give survivors more time to come forward, according to Senators Ryan Aument (R-36) and Scott Martin (R-13), who both supported the bills.
The package of legislation addresses all of the recommendations of a grand jury investigation that was released to the public last year. The bills are designed to ensure victims are supported and all perpetrators of sexual crimes against children are held responsible for their heinous actions, the Senators said.
“In the entirety of my service in the General Assembly, I have never been so heartbroken by any single issue than I was after I read the grand jury report on child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church that was released last year,” said Aument. “The magnitude and scope of the atrocities that were exposed in the report undoubtedly demanded that state government act to give the victims of these crimes the relief they deserve. While no law or legislation can ever truly undo the unspeakable exploitation of countless children at the hands of those they trusted, these bills will provide a path for victims to overcome their abuse.”
“The crimes outlined in the grand jury report last year were horrific, and my priority has always been to help all victims find some sense of justice, while ensuring the perpetrators are punished to the fullest extent of the law,” Martin said. “I had serious concerns about the version of the bill that was approved by the House of Representatives last year because it did not address all of the grand jury’s recommendations, presented new legal issues for victims due to constitutional concerns, and didn’t hold private and public institutions to the same standards. I am grateful that all of these concerns were addressed through this package of bills so we can move forward on these critical reforms.”
“We are in absolute agreement that the Constitutional amendment represents the best approach moving forward, as it is a clearer solution that is more likely to withstand constitutional scrutiny,” said both Senators.
The bills in the package passed by the Senate today include:
- House Bill 962, which would eliminate the criminal statute of limitations for the sexual abuse of a child, as well as associated crimes such as human trafficking. The bill also extends the deadline for civil actions from age 30 to age 50.
- House Bill 963, which would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to create a two-year window of time for retroactive lawsuits for victims whose statute of limitations has already expired. The legislation addresses concerns lawmakers raised last year about whether the two-year window was unconstitutional.
- House Bill 1051, which clarifies mandatory reporting standards for suspected cases of abuse and increases penalties for mandated reporters who continue to fail to report suspected child abuse.
- House Bill 1171, which ensures survivors who sign non-disclosure statements are not prohibited from speaking with law enforcement regarding their abuse.
The Senators said the bills are a culmination of a years-long effort to create effective and permanent laws to ensure perpetrators of sexual offenses against young people are held accountable by the legal system.
House Bills 962 and 1171 will be sent back to the House for concurrence on amendments, while House Bills 963 and 1051 will head to the Governor for his signature. However, as an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution, House Bill 963 will need to be passed in identical form during the 2021-22 legislative session by both chambers and then approved by Pennsylvania voters on a referendum ballot before it can become law.
CONTACT: Ryan Boop (717) 787-4420 (Senator Aument)
Terry Trego (717) 787-6535 (Senator Martin)