Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitation is a time limit that a victim of sexual assault has to file a legal claim.

Criminal cases are filed by the state and must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Convicted offenders may face penalties such as fines, incarceration or both.

Civil cases are filed by individuals and must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely to have occurred than not. Civil law is designed to make the victim “whole,” usually in the form of monetary damages. Currently, victims who were over the age of 18 at the time of the abuse have two years to file civil cases. Victims who were under the age of 18 when the abuse occurred have 12 years after their 18th birthday to file civil charges.

PFSA Supports Statute of Limitations Reform in Child Sexual Abuse Cases

Sexual violence is a serious and complex problem. The good news is prevention is possible. Reforming or eliminating the statute of limitations (SOL) is in the best interest of public safety.

The lifetime re-offending rate for sex offenders who abuse children is nearly 40 percent, making it critically important that we identify offenders and keep them away from children even if the abuse occurred decades ago. SOL reform would maximize opportunities for victims to seek justice from their abuser and protect society at large.

Senate Bill 261, introduced by Senator Joseph Scarnati (R -Jefferson County), would increase the age that victims can come forward to bring a child sexual abuse civil action. The current age cutoff for filing civil claims is 30 years of age and this bill would increase the cutoff to 50 years of age. The bill also adds a list of sexual offenses committed against a child to the list of criminal offenses for which no statute of limitations applies.

PFSA supports SB 261 with the inclusion of a one-time two-year window of opportunity for survivors who were previously blocked from seeking civil damages.

PA’s current statutes of limitations impose time limits which do not consider or allow the time, distance and personal healing from sexual trauma that many survivors require before they are able to pursue justice and accountability from the individuals who harmed them, and in some cases, institutions that protected the perpetrators.

This is a recommendation made by the Grand Jury Report on the Sexual Abuse of Children within the Catholic Diocese in Pennsylvania.

PA House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana County) has said publicly that he expects a vote on Senate Bill 261 on the House floor this fall. While the General Assembly has limited voting days before the end of the 2017-2018 legislative session, there is more than enough time for the House to consider this bill.

Contact your legislator and advocate for SOL reform and help make Pennsylvania safe for children!

We need your voice to ensure this legislation receives consideration and final passage this fall! Contact your House member today to ask them to support this legislation with an amendment to provide a one-time, two-year window of opportunity for survivors.

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