Should Pennsylvania Enact a Lookback Window for Sexual Abuse Cases? Yes.

Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts

Thank you, Governor Wolf, for pressing the Pennsylvania legislature to immediately enact civil child sexual abuse statute of limitation reform so that thousands of middle aged and older survivors can bring predators and their institutional enablers to justice.  For far too long, perpetrators and the religious institutions, schools, summer camps, athletic organizations, and medical and childcare providers that enabled their abuse, found refuge in an inadequate statute of limitations that rewarded them for running out the clock on victims who often need decades to come to terms with their abuse and the forces that have silenced them.  

Credible statute of limitations reform must include providing a “window” to all sexual abuse survivors, no matter their age, to file civil claims against their abusers and the organizations that enable the abuse.  Victims, no matter their age, must have access to justice and the right to demand accountability for the catastrophic, lifelong injuries they caused.  As an attorney who has represented many New York state “windowed” child sexual abuse survivors, it has been the singular privilege of my career to witness the power, validation, and healing, older victims experience when they are permitted to bring abusers and institutions to justice.  

For decades, these survivors have been forced to silently endure the incalculable pain attendant to childhood sexual abuse.  Studies documenting the effects of childhood sexual abuse have reached alarming conclusions.  Sexual abuse victims die on average 18.5 years before others.  Child sexual abuse victims are: 360% more likely to attempt suicide and are 90% more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol.  Victims are often unable to achieve intimacy in their central relationships or enjoy sexual contact with their partners.  Because they have been brutally betrayed by the people that were supposed to protect them, survivors are far less likely to trust institutions like the police, child welfare organizations, and schools. 

Although an overwhelming majority of Pennsylvanians and their elected representatives support civil statute of limitations reform, a Senate leadership, doing the bidding of institutional abusers like the Catholic church and insurance companies, have blocked legislation from being voted upon.  Governor Wolf is right in demanding that Pennsylvania’s lawmakers stand with survivors and correctly calls out key Senate leaders, like Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R Westmoreland County, who have acted with cowardice by shamelessly killing the legislation before it comes to a vote.  We must demand that obstructionist legislators get their feet off the necks of child sexual abuse survivors and permit them to speak their truths and demand justice and accountability.  


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