House may act soon to reform child sex abuse laws, but some victims are angry over change in strategy

Patriot News

March 28, 2019

By Ivey DeJesus and Jan Murphy

After years of failed efforts to reform Pennsylvania’s child sex crime laws, a pair of House lawmakers this week served up the latest attempt at addressing remedies for thousands of adults who were sexually abused as children – and are looking for quick action on it.

Historically, victims of abuse have been among the most strident supporters of such efforts. This time, however, the proposals are engendering mixed reactions among victims, including outrage.

On Wednesday afternoon, state House Representatives Mark Rozzi (D-Berks) and Jim Gregory, (R-Blair) introduced House bills 962 and 963 respectively. Leaders ushered the bills swiftly into the House Judiciary Committee without seeking co-sponsors or holding a press conference.

Rozzi’s bill, House Bill 962, would eliminate the criminal statute of limitations on child sex crimes going forward; victims now must pursue criminal complaints by age 50. The bill would also raise the age limit for filing a civil claim arising out of child sexual abuse to 55, from the current age of 30.

However, Rozzi’s bill does not include what he and victims have long demanded: a retroactive window for victims to file civil suits even if they are beyond the statute of limitations.

Gregory’s House Bill 963 calls for a constitutional amendment to the remedies clause, which would pave the way for a retroactive window for victims who have timed out of the court system. The measure is designed to address concerns that such retroactive windows are unconstitutional, an argument that has been the main sticking point of detractors in efforts to reform child sex abuse laws.

Both bills are scheduled for consideration by the judiciary committee on April 8, which could tee them up for a possible vote by the full House as soon as April 10.

“I’ve been working closely with House leadership and the prime sponsors to make sure that we expeditiously address the issue for the victims in Pennsylvania, looking at the best way to address the grand jury report,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin County. “This is the way we fashioned to move forward obviously to get the best product and move it in a speedy fashion.”

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