Rendell Signs Broader Laws on Child Sex Abuse

By David O'Reilly
Philadelphia Inquirer [Pennsylvania]
November 30, 2006

Gov. Rendell yesterday signed into law four pieces of legislation that broaden Pennsylvania's criminal code for investigating and punishing child sex abuse and other sex offenses.

The bills include most of the measures called for in a 2005 Philadelphia grand jury report on clergy sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

"I'm thrilled, especially for the children of this state," Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham said in a telephone interview minutes before the signing ceremony. Her office conducted the grand jury investigation and issued its report.

Donna Farrell, spokeswoman for the Philadelphia Archdiocese, said it was "very pleased" Rendell had signed the legislation. "We think it sends a message that children are a priority in Pennsylvania, and keeping them safe is everyone's responsibility," Farrell said.

The new laws hold employers or supervisors criminally liable for preventing or interfering with the reporting of child abuse, or for placing a child in the care a person known to abuse children.

They also set a minimum prison term of 10 years for the rape of a child, close a loophole in the reporting requirements for child sex abuse, and give future victims of child abuse until age 50 to bring criminal charges against their assailants.

"Today is an extraordinary day for victims of sexual assault in Pennsylvania, and especially for the youngest victims," Rendell said at the signing ceremony. "It is past time that the criminals who commit these despicable acts receive the severe punishment they deserve."

Another of the laws authorizes a standardized rape kit that investigators and hospitals can use to collect evidence from victims of sexual assault.

"It's just a great day for children," said Cathleen Palm, executive director of the Protect Our Children Committee, an advocacy group comprising many child welfare organizations across the state.

"But what we have achieved is just one of the many steps needed to prevent child abuse and protect children," Palm said. "I just hope we don't lose the sense of urgency that got us this far."

Advocates for Senate Bill 1054, which contained most of the legislation proposed in the grand jury report, had feared it was doomed in late October when the House broke for the election season. It later passed the Senate and House with only one negative vote.

Contact staff writer David O'Reilly at 215-854-5723 or


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.