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Justice One Step Closer for Child Sex Abuse Victims

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On February 1, The Pennsylvania Senate voted 48 to 0 in favor of Senate Bill 261 which would extend the statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims, Philly Voice reported.

Under current law, child sex abuse victims can file a criminal lawsuit until 12 years after their 18th birthday. Senate Bill 261 would completely abolish that statute of limitations. Child sex abuse crimes will be treated like murder, which can be prosecuted at any time. Victims will no longer be barred from seeking justice by time constraints.  The new law will allow victims to not only sue their abusers, but also conspirators and/or individuals who were aware of the abuse but failed to report the matter to law enforcement, according to Philly Voice.

The proposed bill would also extend the statute of limitations on civil child sex abuse lawsuits by 20 years. Victims will now have until 32 years after their 18th birthday to seek damages through a civil suit, according to Philly.com.

Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati (Republican-25th District) introduced the bill on January 30. As discussed in a previous blog, The House of Representatives passed a similar bill during April 2016. However, the senate did not agree on all the provisions of House Bill 1947 and the legislative session expired.

House Bill 1947 proposed that statute of limitations extensions not be limited to recent and future victims. The bill would have allowed men and women abused as far back as the 1970s to come forward and file child sex abuse lawsuits. Many members of the senate believed this provision to be unconstitutional, according to CBS News.

Extending the statute of limitations on child sex abuse is a big step towards securing justice for the victims. Sometimes it can take decades for victims to come forward. Legal Lookout reported on reasons why child sexual abuse victims delay in reporting the crime. In some cases, victims fail to come forward because they are threatened by their abusers. Others wait because they fear no one will believe them, or they struggle with disillusionment after the incident.

According to Philly.com it is unclear how soon the House would take up the Senate bill.

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