The Sandusky and Bernie Fine sex abuse scandals are bringing to light the need for changes in the statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases in Pennsylvania and New York.
Victims of sexual abuse rallied on Wednesday to voice their support for a bill brought by New York Assemblywoman Margaret Markley. This bill would extend the statute of limitations for sex abuse cases. The Child Victims Act would extend the statute of limitations by five years or until the victim is twenty-eight (28) years old, in both civil and criminal cases.
While extending the statute of limitations for sexual abuse victims by five (5) years is a start, it’s hardly enough. As many people know now, it takes unbelievable courage for sexual abuse victims to come forward against their abuser, especially when the abuser is a well known person or person in authority. Many victims do not come forward until they are well into adulthood and some don’t ever come forward. Feelings of shame or fear of the response can be overwhelming.
There needs to be more done to encourage victims to come forward. Reporting abuse and coming forward can prevent further victims from being abused.
In Delaware and California, laws were passed that created windows (two year window for Delaware and one year window for California) for sex abuse victims to file sex abuse claims against abusers and any other organization which hid the abuse. Both states saw an incredible response. Thousands of victims came forward and various sexual predators were held responsible for their acts, both criminally and civilly. This gave victims the chance to hold those responsible who may have covered up the abuse, i.e. the Church. At the same time, coming forward and filing suit may have prevented future victims from having the same done to them.
After the Delaware law was passed, the law firm of Laffey, Bucci & Kent sued a sitting judge, a serial pedophile. The landmark case held him responsible for the abuse of several young men. As a result of the civil claim and the courage of those men, the judge was forced to admit the abuse and resign from the bench. He was also disbarred.
This is just one of many examples of why we need victim friendly laws. Not only do they hold the abuser responsible, but they can have a much more far-reaching effect. Such media attention can lead to the prevention of future sexual abuse.
Right now, in Pennsylvania, there are two bills that would either (1) extend the statute of limitations for sexual abuse victims in civil cases until the victim is fifty (50) years old or (2) create a two-year window for victims to bring a civil claim against any entity responsible for the abuse. The time for these changes is now.
Governor Corbett preached victim awareness and victim friendly laws following the revelation of the Sandusky abuse. Now is the time to act and make Governor Corbett make good on his promise to victims. Contact your legislators and tell them we need victim friendly laws, not predator friendly laws.