Bill Would Give Childhood Sex Abuse Victims 20 More Years to Sue

State senator's bill would give victims under the age of 18 until the age of 50 to bring civil claims.

A new bill in the Pennsylvania Senate would give childhood victims of sexual abuse until the age of 50 to file a civil lawsuit against their abuser.

Sen. Rob Teplitz, a Democrat who serves Perry and Dauphin counties, introduced the bill Monday, saying it addressed one of the few remaining issues left over from the state’s Task Force on Child Protection that made recommendations in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State. The current statute of limitations gives childhood victims of abuse until the age of 30 to file a civil claim; the statute of limitations for criminal charges in such cases is already age 50.

That rule is “arbitrary and archaic” Teplitz said in
a sponsorship memorandum.

The Task Force on Child Protection, though, quite explicitly declined to recommend an extended statute of limitations. Its findings did otherwise lead to 23 new laws passed by the Pennsylvania Legislature.

“The Task Force acknowledges that some adults who were abused as minors are not able to commence an action because the statute of limitations has expired in their cases,” it said in its final report. “These adults justifiably want to revive their claims but are barred from doing so. The Task Force declined to recommend a ‘revival’ statute because of the potential for staleness of evidence and possible constitutional concerns.”

Teplitz said the victims need more opportunity to press their claims.

“It often takes victims of sexual abuse years or decades to have the courage to share their traumatic experiences,” Teplitz said in a prepared statement. “This bill would allow victims to seek justice and have their day in court.”

The bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee for consideration.

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