Pols stand with victims in push for 2-year window for suits

By Kathleen E. Carey
Delaware County News Network
October 26, 2018

State Sens. Tom McGarrigle, R-26, of Springfield, Tom Killion, R-9, of Middletown and John Rafferty, R-44, Thursday called on their colleagues to reconvene in Harrisburg to vote on a two-year window to allow childhood sexual abuse survivors to file civil suits against their abusers.

Standing before the Delaware County Courthouse, McGarrigle and Rafferty joined state Reps. Alex Charlton, R-165 of Springfield, Chris Quinn R-168, of Middletown and Marguerite Quinn, R-143, of Bucks County, in voicing their support for the measure while a group of survivors stood across the street, shouting, saying the vote should've been taken last week before the Senate recessed. 

"I'm here today on behalf of the victims," McGarrigle said, "and to tell the Senate Dems don't use these victims as political pawns ... We're going to reach out to Sen. (President Pro Tempore Joe) Scarnati, R-25 of Jefferson County, to demand that he call back the Senate ... to come and let's vote on this. Let's take the vote, send it back and get it signed by the governor and move on. We are demanding a vote."

Last week, the Senate failed to vote on S.B. 261 after Scarnati removed a provision from the bill so that institutions would not be held liable civilly. The House had passed the measure at the end of September. In addition to the two-year window for older cases, it would also eliminate criminal statutes of limitation for future child sexual abuse cases and extend the deadline for victims to file civil actions to age 50. Under current law victims must file by age 30. Many experts and advocates say it takes much longer for many victims to come to grips with their assaults as children.

Jim VanSickle of Bradford, Pa. spoke of his abuse at the hands of David Poulson, then a priest in the Diocese of Erie.

"Since my trial, my life has been full of turmoil, mistrust and dysfunction," he said. "My family, my daughters, my wife took the brunt of the impossible expectations of a normal life lost due to to my behavior."

After three suicide attempts, a marriage almost lost, he worried that his abuser would arise and hurt others, something he found out occurred earlier this year.

VanSickle was one of four victims out of the 1,000 identified in the most state grand jury report into abuse by Catholic priests in six dioceses. His abuser was one of two predator priests that were charged from that investigation, although 301 predators were identified. 

VanSickle said his abuser pleaded guilty to his crimes and was sentenced to 14 years in prison, but will probably serve only three.

"My sentence is a lifetime with no early release, except death," he said. 

"A few senators with the power backed by the Catholic lobby, the insurance federation avoided a vote for the SOL reform that would give survivors a sliver of justice," he said. "I am not after this religion. I am after the criminals and those who covered up these crimes. The Senate failing to act just adds to the criminal cover-up that defies understanding."

Democrat Tim Kearney is challenging McGarrigle in the Nov. 6. He released a statement through spokesman Joe Corrigan.

It read, "This is just another instance of politicians saying one thing in their districts, and then going to Harrisburg and blatantly ignoring the people they represent. Republicans have a super majority in the Senate, meaning they have all the power to bring any bill they want to the floor for a vote. In the case of the Window for Justice bill, Republicans refused to hold a vote and instead walked away. Tom McGarrigle can send out all the press releases and hold all the press conferences he wants. Where was his press conference calling for Joe Scarnati to run the bill or resign? Nowhere. No speech. No press release. Just silence. Because when it came time to choose survivors of clergy sex abuse over party politics, Tom chose his party."

Brian Rule, a childhood sexual abuse survivor from Delaware County, said failure to pass this legislation, in effect, permits predators to continue hurting others.

"They don't stop," he said. "They don't stop. They just die."



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