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PCAR urges legislators to remove the statute of limitations for child sexual assault cases

August 14, 2018


PCAR urges legislators to remove the statute of limitations for child sexual assault cases

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape is urging state legislators to pass legislation which would remove the statute of limitations for child sexual assault cases.

The Attorney General’s office today released yet another grand jury report illustrating the sexual abuse of hundreds of children inside an institution in the Commonwealth—this time in Roman Catholic churches. It is the fifth such report to detail sexual abuse of children and make recommendations for the removal of the statute of limitations since 2005.

Many of these reports share a common theme—one that is easily corrected. Most victims have lost their ability to seek justice in both the criminal and civil courts because of arbitrary time limitations. To date, Pennsylvania legislators have not acted on the recommendations made by the Attorney General in any of these reports.

It is time for Pennsylvania law makers to act.

 PCAR is calling on our state legislators to:

  • Eliminate the statute of limitations in all child sexual assault legislation in both the civil and criminal statutes.
  • Provide a one-time, two-year window of opportunity for survivors of child sexual abuse who were previously blocked from seeking civil damages—a recommendation made in many of the previous Grand Jury reports relating to child sexual abuse cases

The experience of sexual assault often causes victims to feel confused, scared, embarrassed, shamed and humiliated.  When people who perpetrate abuse also manipulate the naivete of youth, these feelings are exacerbated.  This is why it is normal for survivors of sexual assault to wait years and decades before telling anyone what was done to them.

“We know that delayed reporting is normal and should be expected in sexual abuse cases,” PCAR CEO Karen Baker said. “It is time for the laws of the Commonwealth to reflect this reality and provide law enforcement officials with the adequate tools to take action when victims are ready.”

Grand juries in Pennsylvania have been recommending these changes to state statutes for more than a decade. The time to act on that guidance is long overdue. Child sexual abuse leaves a long-term impact on victims and their families. Many survivors experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and problems with drug and alcohol. These things frequently interfere with educational achievements and employment.  It is common for victims to struggle for decades before making the connection between childhood abuse and these kinds of significant life difficulties.

“We as a society must not accept that those who abuse children—our loved ones who they were often trusted to protect—may go unpunished because of outdated and ineffective legislation,” Baker said. “Our children—and all victims of abuse—must be valued. Too many children and families have had their lives, health, education, relationships and faith damaged. Pennsylvania cannot continue to keep laws on the books that allow institutions the ability to cover up crimes and leave children in the care of people known to hurt them.”

PCAR also supports the abolishment of the criminal statutes of limitations in adult sexual assault cases.




Founded in 1975, PCAR works to end sexual violence and advocates for the rights and needs of sexual assault victims. PCAR partners with a network of rape crisis programs to bring help, hope and healing around issues of sexual violence in all 67 counties of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.