Pennsylvania Senate again choosing abusers over sexual assault victims

Editorial in The Pennsylvania Tribune-Democrat: (Read the comment from a retired captain of the Philadelphia P.D. as well.)

The lobbyists from the insurance industry and the Catholic church clearly gave their mouthpiece, Pennsylvania state senate majority leader Kim Ward, the constitutional “retroactivity” soundbite. Two big words–constitution and retroactivity. Ward has stalled legislation which would open a two-year window for sexual abuse victims to sue the organizations that failed to act or covered up that abuse, even if cases fall outside the statute of limitations. The bill passed the Pennsylvania house by a 3:1 margin in April.

Ward, a member of Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, who was a respiratory therapist before “entering politics,” is not an attorney. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro challenged the argument that such a move would not pass constitutional muster. A lawsuit “window bill” was first introduced in the Pennsylvania legislature in 2005. Since then, 18 other states have passed similar legislation on behalf of abuse victims.

Legislation is honed by legislative counsel and retroactivity has apparently not been raised as a successful defense in cases brought during such “window” periods. To round out her knowledge beyond that provided by lobbyists, Ward could have considered a report prepared by Child USA, the National Think Tank for Child Protection, covering the history of U.S. child abuse statute of limitations reforms from 2002 to 2020.

Ward says she prefers a constitutional amendment–which based on the history of legislation and litigation in other states, as well as her state’s own attorney general–is unnecessary. But what she no doubt likes is the delay that would be involved–the hoops involved in such an amendment would push consideration out until 2023 at the earliest. As The Tribune-Democrat editorial makes clear, the issue is not going away no matter what stall tactics the Pennsylvania senate engages in.

I know it’s probably much more fun to go to lunch with lobbyists from the insurance industry and her Catholic church, but Ward could have just skipped to page 76 of the Child USA report on statutes of limitations reform for a little more insight to round out her consideration:

Child sex abuse SOL [statute of limitations] reform has been very active across the United States since January 2002 when the Boston Globe‘s Spotlight team first disclosed institution-based sex abuse in a trusted institution, the Boston Archdiocese. The movement has been mobilized by the appearance in the public square of victims of child sex abuse who were previously invisible to the public. With 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 13 boys sexually abused, there are millions of victims in the United States and most even today have not disclosed their abuse to the public. While the opposition to victims’ greater access to justice persists from certain corners, it is apparent that with the #MeToo movement and a new wave of child sex abuse victims coming forward and revival windows now open in many states, the movement remains strong. The rapid pace of change is unlikely to slow down any time soon.

History of U.S. Child Sex Abuse Statutes of Limitations Reform:2002-2020

When the Catholic church could no longer crush victims of clergy sexual abuse behind the scenes, they expanded their “war” to the legislative battle field. They’ve won battles with the help of their acolytes like Ward. But eventually the Catholic church and its toadies are going to lose the war. They stopped asking “what would Jesus do?” a very long time ago. What would their attorneys and lobbyists do? We all know the answer to that question.

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