York, PA –
Two child sex abuse bills that are awaiting approval by the State House Judiciary Committee would remove the statue of limitations on criminal charges and civil suits, or suspend any expired statue of limitations.
Supporters say the changes would provide a “window of opportunity” for victims to seek justice, according to a news release.
Reps. Louise Bishop and Michael McGeehan, both D-Philadelphia, announced earlier this year they are re-introducing two bills that are similar to ones introduced in the past two-year legislative session, but died after being bottled up in the committee process.
Bishop re-introduced House Bill 237, which would abolish the statue of limitations on criminal charges and civil lawsuits in cases of child sex abuse.
McGeehan brought back House Bill 238, which would suspend any expired statue of limitation for two years in child sex abuse cases, providing a “window of opportunity for those victims for file a lawsuit,” according to a news release.
McGeehan’s bill also would seek to make child sexual abuse an exception to the sovereign immunity defense that shields public officials from being sued.
“The effects of child sex abuse are felt everywhere,” McGeehan said in a statement online. “We are all victims. The scandals which have rocked school districts and dioceses across the country, Penn State, the Boy Scouts — the problem clearly is not going away. Opponents of our measures need to rethink their positions and become part of the solution.”
One local woman, Kristen Woolley, founder and president of Turning Point Women’s Counseling and Advocacy Center in York, has met with numerous members of the House Judiciary Committee and state representatives to tell them of her own story of abuse, and ask them to support these bills.
Woolley, of Windsor Township, said a family friend abused her when she was between the ages of 10 and 12. She kept it a secret from her friends and family until she was 23 and a doctor encouraged her to tell her mother. By then, too much time had passed for Woolley to file charges against her abuser.
Woolley said she’s kept tabs on Bishop since 2006, when the legislator previously tried to move a bill on the issue.
“I keep following it because I hope for my own day in court,” Woolley said. “I’m gravely afraid for other children who could be hurt by my perpetrator, or someone else.”
Woolley said her meetings with officials have been positive. Most of them express sympathy and shock at her own story and efforts, and many take her pleas to heart, she said.
“I’m not going to settle for a ‘no,'” Woolley said, should the bills not be passed. “…I will not accept one more child being at risk to endure sexual abuse.”
One local woman with a history of childhood sexual abuse is pleading with officials to consider the bills.
Daily Record/Sunday News