A growing “circle of survivors,” is demanding Pennsylvania lawmakers eliminate the statue of limitations for child sexual abuse and adopt a two year window of opportunity to give victims timed out by prior laws, a day in court.
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests Tuesday joined representatives of Child USA and a pair of former gymnasts who survived of abuse at the hands of former Michigan State Dr. Larry Nassar to demand that state lawmakers make changes to the law recommended by the statewide grand jury that concluded that more than 300 priests abused 1,000 children across the state.
Under current law, most of those former victims were barred from court action by statutes of limitations that expired years ago.
University of Pennsylvania law professor Marci Hamilton, one of the founders of Child USA, stressed that changes in the law, including the creation of a two year window of opportunity for those previously barred from court, would benefit not only those abused by priests, but all child sexual abuse survivors.
“It is a fact that window legislation has revealed to the public hundreds of hidden child predators and shifted the cost of the abuse from the victims to the ones who caused it. It is fundamentally fair,” said Hamilton.
While the state House of Representatives appears poised to support such changes, Sen. Joe Scarnati, R- Jefferson County, has consistently opposed such legislation. He said such a law would require changes to the state constitution. Scarnati has instead supported Catholic Church leaders who have come out in favor of the establishment of a settlement fund for victims.
Tuesday, two former gymnasts who were abused by Nassar, Jessica Howard and Sarah Klein, joined Hamilton, SNAP leader Michael McDonnell and several other survivors in a press conference just outside of Philadelphia to to call on Pennsylvania lawmakers to act now.
Howard and Klein, a Pennsylvania resident who is also an attorney, were among the many women who successfully pushed for changes to the statues of limitations in Michigan.
“The acid test of a legal system is its capacity to do justice,” Klein said in a statement promoting their campaign. “Justice for the countless survivors of sexual abuse who are now finally able to come forward and seek healing requires that statutes of limitations be changed. It is an unspeakable injustice to allow statutes of limitations to leave victims without the healing that only legal justice can provide,”