A grand jury report detailed credible allegations of sex abuse against approximately 1,000 child victims by more than 300 Catholic priests in Pennsylvania. Due to lack of reporting, the number of victims is more likely to be in the thousands. The grand jury report is said to be the largest, most comprehensive document alleging child sex abuse in the Catholic church ever filed in the U.S.
Six dioceses throughout the state were implicated and grand jurors found that church leaders throughout the state chose to protect the priests and the institution in one of the largest cover-ups ever exposed.
When the sexual abuse was reported, priests were often sent to other parishes in order to sweep the allegations under the rug and protect church leaders. Attempts to silence accusers and cover up the abuse caused the statute of limitations to run out in almost every case, according to the grand jury.
The allegations of abuse date back to 1947. According to the grand jury, because the accusations were prevented from coming out and were covered up for decades, many of these cases are too old to be prosecuted due to the Pennsylvania statute of limitations.
The current Pennsylvania statute of limitations prohibits child sex abuse victims from filing criminal charges after they turn 50 years old and civil claims after they turn 30. A proposed bill that would eliminate the time limit for criminal charges and change the civil lawsuit limitation to age 50 is now before the state House, after being passed unanimously by the Senate last year.
A Pennsylvania state Representative, who is also a former victim of child sex abuse by a priest, is pushing for an amendment to the bill that would allow child sex abuse victims a two-year window to sue their abusers once the bill is passed, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.
The Senate previously rejected the proposal but the representative hopes they will reconsider it due to the present wide-sweeping allegations. The grand jury supports the two-year retroactive window, but a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses stated that such legislative matters will be addressed later and that for the time being, they are solely focusing on the survivors’ healing process.
If the bill is passed, thousands of child sex abuse victims will have the opportunity to get the justice and closure they need. It remains to be seen whether the legislature will crack down on this systemic abuse by passing the bill and making reforms.
If you are a survivor of sex abuse, contact a Georgetown sexual abuse lawyer at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. We have been litigating childhood sexual abuse cases against churches, schools, and doctors since 2004, and we also advocate for adult survivors of sexual abuse and assault. From our offices in Georgetown and Wilmington, Delaware, we represent clients throughout the state. Our attorneys are also licensed to practice in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia. For a confidential consultation, contact us online or call us at 302-656-5445.