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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: January 31, 2019 01:29 PM
From: Senator Timothy P. Kearney and Sen. Maria Collett, Sen. Katie J. Muth, Sen. Steven J. Santarsiero, Sen. Lindsey M. Williams, Sen. John P. Blake, Sen. James R. Brewster, Sen. Jay Costa, Sen. Andrew E. Dinniman, Sen. Lawrence M. Farnese, Jr., Sen. Wayne D. Fontana, Sen. Vincent J. Hughes, Sen. Daylin Leach, Sen. Judith L. Schwank, Sen. Sharif Street, Sen. Christine M. Tartaglione, Sen. Anthony H. Williams
To: All Senate members
Subject: Abolishment of the Statute of Limitations for Victims of Sexual Abuse, Assault, and Misconduct
In the near future, we plan to introduce legislation that amends Title 42 (Judiciary and Judicial Procedure) to:

  • eliminate the criminal and civil statute of limitations (SOL) for sexual abuse, assault and misconduct victims whose abuse happened at any age;
  • provide a 2 year civil window to revive previously expired SOL claims, and;
  • also provide a 6-month delay to the window in which survivors who wish to voluntarily settle their claim outside the court system are able to do so. What will be introduced is not SB 261 of 2017-2018 nor HB 612 of 2017-2018, though those pieces of legislation did inform the context of this bill.

Last session, the House passed PN 2003 of Senate Bill 261, which eliminated the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse victims and included a 2-year civil window. The 40th Statewide grand jury report recommended the elimination of SOL for child sexual abuse, assault and misconduct victims and a civil window of time to allow victims to come forward with a civil lawsuit if their SOL expired. One or both recommendations can also be found in the grand jury reports of Altoona-Johnstown and 3 from Philadelphia. It is in this spirit that we are proposing legislation that corrects a culture that has allowed rape, sexual abuse, assault and misconduct to run rampant for far too long.

This crisis is indiscriminate of age; there are countless victims who have been subjected to sexual abuse, assault and misconduct in their lifetime. A study done by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) found that 82% of sexual assault victims are between the ages of 18 and 64. The 2015 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey Date Brief showed that 55.6% of women surveyed were 18 years old or older when they were first-time victims of completed or attempted rape. However, this research is based on reported abuse, assault and misconduct. The Bureau of Justice Statistics found that only 36% of rapes, 34% of attempted rapes, and 26% of sexual assaults were reported between 1992 and 2000. This data describes a marginalized population and does note reflect the real scope of the crisis due to under-reporting. Sexual abuse, assault, misconduct and all its related malfeasance is an epidemic affecting everyone regardless of age, race, gender and sexual orientation.

Our legislation will address this concern by eliminating the SOL for all victims regardless of age; therefore expanding the recommended access to justice for all victims of sexual abuse, assault and misconduct.

We also seek to highlight the lack of response from organizations and entities when confronted with sexual abuse, assault and misconduct from within their ranks. This perpetuates the continuous and systematic breakdown of reporting, as well as a lack of disciplinary action within the organization. We therefore recommend that alongside the abolishment of SOL, a 2-year civil window with a 6-month delay is provided for all survivors with expired civil claims, giving them access to due process. Victims who wish to come forward, but do not want to pursue a civil case now have 6 month time period to reach a settlement with institutions. Institutions cannot pursue a settlement outside of the court process when the 6-month delay has expired. This 6-month delay will begin when the elimination of SOL comes into effect and before the 2-year window begins.

This is a moral imperative to bring relief to all people denied their day in court, indiscriminate of when the abuse, assault or misconduct occurred. While we cannot give back what was taken from these victims, we believe it is our obligation to ensure that access to justice and recourse is available whenever a victim decides to step forward.

Please join us in co-sponsoring this important piece of legislation.

Introduced as SB540