Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Pennsylvania state leaders call for change in statute of limitations for child sexual abuse

Karen Langley
Pittsburgh Post Gazette
March 15, 2016

In the wake of a grand jury report alleging extensive child sexual abuse in the Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, Attorney General Kathleen Kane and other state leaders called Monday for legislators to change statutes of limitations for child sexual abuse.

After changes in 2002 and 2006 following abuse scandals, victims of child sexual abuse in Pennsylvania can now bring criminal cases until their 50th birthdays and civil lawsuits until their 30th birthdays.

Speaking in the Capitol, Ms. Kane called for an end of limitations for criminal and civil cases.

“We ask ourselves as a society, who are we?” she said. ”Do we protect our children? Do we make sure that child sexual abusers never stop looking over their shoulder? Or do we protect the rapists?”

Delilah Rumburg, CEO of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, said most child victims wait many years before they can talk about what happened to them.

Brenda Dick, 49, of Altoona, said she would have kept secret that she had been abused as a child by a cousin if another cousin had not said that she, too, had been touched.

“I want to die knowing that this statute of limitations is gone,” she said. “Look at my face, and look at every children’s face you see for the rest of your lives, and ask yourself, were they a victim, oh God, could they have been?”

Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, an advocate for the changes, singled out House Judiciary Committee, Chairman Ron Marsico, R-Dauphin, as he called for the legislation to pass.

Steve Miskin, spokesman for House Republicans, said he expects the panel to take up the legislation in the next few weeks.

“The chairman supports removing or eliminating the statute of limitations in criminal cases,” he said.

Marci Hamilton, a Yeshiva University law professor and expert on the subject, said the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference has stood in the way of changes.

Amy Hill, spokeswoman for the conference, said that anyone who sexually abuses a child should be severely punished by the law. She said the conference is reviewing proposals on statutes of limitations, but that generally it agrees with the state Task Force on Child Protection, which in a 2012 report said it believed the statute of limitations was adequate.

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