Wolf signs legislation to end time limits for future child sexual abuse charges

Mark Abrams
November 26, 2019 - 11:21 am
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation Tuesday morning that abolishes the statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse in the state.

"We need to recognize this act," Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. "We need to recognize it because many of these survivors have waited years or decades for this moment."

The move comes less than a week after the bill cleared the General Assembly.

"Every survivor that comes forward as a result of this legislation deserves our support," Wolf said. 

The legislation and companion bills include extending the timeline victims have to file civil action against their abusers, increasing penalties for failure to report child abuse by a mandated reporter, and making conversations with law enforcement agents exempt from non-disclosure agreements. 

Wolf's decision was based on recommendations in last year's landmark grand jury report about the cover-up of hundreds of cases of child sexual abuse in six of Pennsylvania's eight Roman Catholic dioceses over much of the 20th century. 

Shapiro said the legislation is important because some people in power can't be trusted.

"We've seen it time and time again, from the Catholic Church to other powerful institutions. They cannot be trusted to police themsevles," Shapiro said.

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Victims will no longer be pressured by time, Shapiro said.

"Victims of childhood sexual abuse will have until they are ready to report their crimes. No child who has been sexually abused will have to be pressured by the threat of an artificial age ceiling for reporting the crime committed against them," he said.

About two dozen states have changed their laws on statutes of limitations this year, according to Child USA, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that advocates for child protection.