Statute of Limitations Reform on Behalf of Child Sexual Abuse Survivors
Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts
Attorney Andrew Shubin and Shubin Law have been advocating on behalf of child sexual abuse victims for thirty years – in courtrooms and federal and state legislatures. Attorney Shubin is currently fighting on behalf of Pennsylvania’s child sexual abuse survivors to change the statute of limitations to permit them to hold their abusers accountable no matter how long ago the abuse occurred. According to Attorney Andrew Shubin, “the statute of limitations should not be a refuge that rewards sexual abusers, and the institutions that enable and embolden them, who have conspired, often through the most sinister of methods, to silence their victims.”
According to Attorney Shubin, “it is urgent that Pennsylvania immediately reform its civil child sexual abuse statute of limitations so that victims can hold abusers accountable and which acknowledges the difficulty and trauma from child sexual abuse that often delays an individual from speaking out about their abuse.” According to CHILD USA, the majority of child sexual abuse victims do not disclose their abuse until adulthood––the average age for victims of child sexual abuse to report is 52 years old.
What is The Statute of Limitations for Sexual Abuse Cases?
In 2019, Pennsylvania extended the civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases –– allowing victims to file civil suits against their abusers until they turn 55. For individuals abused between 18-24 years of age, the new law allows them to sue until they turn 30. However, cases of abuse before 2019 still fall under the old civil statute of limitations: adults have only 2 years from the date of the abuse to file their case and child victims have until age 30 to sue.
According to Attorney Shubin, “any credible statute of limitations reform must include providing a two-year window to all sexual abuse survivors, no matter their age, to file civil claims against their abusers and the churches, schools, athletic associations, hospitals, universities, and other organizations that enable the abuse.” According to Attorney Shubin, “all victims must have access to justice and accountability – no matter their age.”
Sexual Abuse Victim Lookback Window
Consequently, Shubin Law and other child sexual abuse advocates are lobbying the Pennsylvania legislature, and specifically the Pennsylvania Senate, to adopt a look-back window to permit civil suits that were time-barred under the previous statute of limitations to now come forward. Several states including New Jersey, New York, and California have already enacted look-back windows, creating a renewed opportunity for victims to demand accountability from their abusers and the institutions that enabled the abuse.
House Bill 14 proposes an amendment to Pennsylvania’s state constitution in order to establish a two-year look-back window. The bill has garnered bipartisan support in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives which has been led by Republican Rep. Jim Gregory and Democrat Rep. Mark Rozzi, both child sexual abuse survivors. In April 2021, the Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the House’s legislation, House Bill 951, which establishes a two-year look-back window for child sexual abuse cases. The full Senate now must consider the legislation and vote to approve it. Current Senate Republican leadership has publicly supported the legislation which marks a positive departure from prior leadership which effectively killed earlier attempts to reform the statute of limitation. If the Senate approves this measure, it will go to Governor Tom Wolf who has already indicated that he would sign the bill into law.
The bill would revive the possibility for individuals to file civil lawsuits for child sexual abuse cases that expired under the previous statute of limitations. The bill states that “the individual shall have an additional period of two years from the effective date of this subsection to commence an action.” The bill would also partially waive the “sovereign immunity defense” for public schools and government-related institutions in sexual abuse cases, allowing for civil cases where “the injuries to the plaintiff were caused by actions or omissions by state or local agencies that constitutes negligence.” This change would allow both public and private institutions to be held accountable for their negligence which resulted in the sexual abuse of children.
The measure has widespread support from the general public, bipartisan legislators, and the Pennsylvania Attorney General who initially called for a look-back window in 2018 after an investigation exposed rampant child sexual abuse by Pennsylvania Catholic priests.
Justice for Victims of Sexual Abuse
We urge you to contact your legislator and request their support for House Bill 951 to help create a look-back window to ensure that all victims, regardless of age, can demand justice and accountability from their abuser and the institutions that facilitated their abuse. You can find and contact your legislator using this resource.