Priest abuse
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Legislation involving justice for sexual abuse victims has support from two Delaware County senators — in fact, one even introduced the legislation to get it one step closer to law.

State Sen. Tim Kearney, D-26 of Swarthmore, was among a group of freshman legislators in introducing SB 540, which would eliminate the criminal and civil statute of limitations for sexual abuse, assault and misconduct victims whose abuse happened at any age; provide a 2-year civil window to revive previously expired SOL claims; and provide a 6-month delay to the window in which survivors who wish to voluntarily settle their claim outside the court system are able to do so.

"I wanted to get to Harrisburg to amplify the voices of those who've gone unheard for far too long," Kearney said. "Trauma does not have an expiration date. We will not limit survivors' opportunities to seek justice."

This move comes on the heels of the state House overwhelmingly passing related bills, HB 962 and 963 Wednesday. These two separate bills were combined into one piece of legislation in the Senate, SB 540.

HB 962 was introduced by state Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-126, of Berks County, who was seeking a retroactive window to allow those who had been abused in the past to seek remedies from their accusers. He is now pursuing that through a constitutional amendment. If SB 540 were to get passed, it would apply only to cases of abuse that happen the day it passes and onward.

"For too long, victims have had no recourse, unable to press charges after some artificial deadline has kicked in," Kearney said. "This has resulted in zero consequences for many perpetrators while victims are left with lasting trauma, like PTSD, depression, anxiety and even suicide. The challenges for victims are further exacerbated by knowing they have no legal recourse, even as abusers go on putting still others at risk."

According to a study done by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 82 percent of sexual assault victims are between 18- to 64-years-old. In addition, the Bureau of Justice Statistics stated that only 36 percent of rapes, 34 percent of attempted rapes and 26 percent of sexual assaults were actually reported between 1992 and 2000.

Kearney's bill also has support from state Sen. Tom Killion, R-9 of Middletown.

"Last year's grand jury report was beyond horrific," he said of the state attorney general's report that evaluated abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses. "It showed that 300 priests sexually abused 1,000 children over 70 years. These victims and countless others deserve justice."

Killion noted that when he served as a state representative in 2016, he voted in favor of retroactive lawsuits so victims could have their day in court.

"I continue to strongly support legislation that removes the statute of limitations for prosecuting abusers and gives victims the ability to file retroactive lawsuits, such as during a two-year window outlined in Sen. Kearney's bill," he said.

He said this should have been done.

"We must allow victims to face their abusers and the institutions that fostered them in the courtroom," Killion said. "We can no longer deny generations of victims the justice they deserve. Last year, I called on the Senate to vote on a similar bill.

"This legislation is painfully long overdue," he said.

This article originally ran on delcotimes.com.

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