No Limit to Sex Abuse Pain
March 5, 2016
The Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse case launched an outcry for changes to Pennsylvania’s law to remove the statute of limitations for victims to come forward.
The state’s laws remain unchanged. And this week’s news from our eastern neighbor was a good reminder why that momentum has, and needs, to return across the country.
Tuesday, in releasing a gut-wrenching report of abuse across the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown reported on extensively by our sister paper the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane revived the call for a change in the law.
We urge lawmakers not just in Pennsylvania but in Ohio and across the nation to seize the moment and eliminate any statute of limitations on sexual assault and abuse — particularly when it involves a minor. In Ohio, that statute of limitations is just 25 years for all sexual assault cases, whether the victim is a minor or adult.
In Pennsylvania, victims of sexual assault who are younger than 18 and were born before Aug. 27, 2002, have 12 years after their 18th birthdays to file charges. Victims younger than 18 and born after that date have 32 years after their 18th birthdays to file against their abusers.
“The grand jury has recommended, and I have always stated, the statute of limitations should be eliminated,” Kane said. “There is no time period that we can put on how long a child should have to muster the strength to step out into the public.”
In fact, many states have statues of limitations on sexual assault cases — it is what has allowed Bill Cosby to avoid facing more charges despite the many, many women who say they were victims. Ohio last summer extended the statute of limitations from 20 to 25 years after a statewide backlog of rape test kits sparked outrage.
While the victims must live with the effects of the abuse for the rest of their lives, their attackers can avoid legal responsibility after a period of time.
How tragic and blatantly unfair.
Kane and her staff said there are no plans currently to charge any of the more than 30 priests named in the report, which showed that hundreds of children had been sexually assaulted over five decades across the diocese – even as bishops and others conspired to avoid having criminal charges filed. Instead, the report shows, pedophile priests were relocated when accusations arose, or sent away for “treatment” before being reassigned to other parishes.
While the thought is repugnant, it does not take a great flight of the imagination to acknowledge something like this could happen in Ohio.
Let’s finally do something more to protect our children from predators.