DeLissio: Statute-of-limitations laws spotlighted with legislation, Papal visit

HARRISBURG, Sept. 25 – There are many legislative proposals circulating throughout the Pennsylvania General Assembly that would address the oft overlooked problem with the state’s statute-of-limitations laws and how they relate to the victims of sexual abuse, said state Rep. Pamela A. DeLissio, D-Montgomery/Phila.


DeLissio this week joined a news conference with state Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, and other state legislators and reform advocates to discuss their respective bills, which would extend the statute of limitations and allow more victims to seek civil action against perpetrators.


Rozzi is a victim of clergy sexual abuse, and DeLissio said that his story is most compelling and hopes that her colleagues can advocate for these much-needed changes.


House Bill 661 and Senate Bill 582, which is an identical Senate companion bill, would raise the age for an adult victim of child sex abuse to file a civil claim from 30 to 50 and permit previously time-barred victims to bring suit.


House Bill 655 would eliminate the statute of limitation for criminal and civil cases prospectively to allow for victims of child sexual abuse to file charges regardless of the amount of time that’s passed since the alleged abuse occurred.


House Bill 951 would create a two-year window for past victims of child sex abuse to file civil suit.


“As a strong proponent of enhancing Pennsylvania’s statute-of-limitation rules, I cannot express enough how important it is to give each and every victim the opportunity to seek justice against his or her perpetrator,” DeLissio said. “It is a well-documented fact that victims of sexual abuse come to terms with the crime on their own terms and take varying amounts of time to do so. Limiting their window to seek justice is antithetical to the healing process itself, and I would be happy to see any, if not all, of these laws passed in some form.


“Victims and our very construct of justice depend on this reform.”


The Capitol news conference happened the same week that Pope Francis embarked on his U.S. visit, during which he has applauded bishops of the Catholic Church for progress in the fight for the rights of sexual-abuse victims. While the pope’s openness on the issue has made headlines, some have questioned the real-world reform.


“This is an excellent opportunity to take the sentiment of a world leader to whom we are host this week, and call for real change,” DeLissio said. “That change can start with an update to the laws, and it can be bolstered by the world stage this week.


“This week has been a truly special opportunity in that regard, and I will continue to call for expedient, real reform and fight for victims who deserve every chance at justice and healing.”


EDITORS: A photo of the Capitol press conference can be downloaded here. State Rep. Pamela A. DeLissio, D-Montgomery/Phila., attends a Capitol news conference Sept. 21, 2015, with state Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks. The news conference brought attention to the growing need for reform to Pennsylvania's laws regarding the statute of limitations in sexual-abuse cases.