Harrisburg, Pa. − February 1, 2021 − Pennsylvania Senate Democrats will introduce legislation to statutorily create a two-year window for survivors of sexual abuse to seek justice on claims that previously would have been time barred.
This legislative solution is intended to replace the constitutional amendment process, which has been inadvertently voided by the Department of State. To amend Pennsylvania’s constitution, a bill must pass in identical form in two consecutive legislative sessions. After each passage, the bill must be advertised and after the second passage, it goes to voters for their approval.
A constitutional amendment to open the two-year window for sexual abuse survivors passed in the previous session, but the Department of State failed to advertise it and thus the lengthy process would have to start over again.
The Senate Democrats do not believe that survivors should have to wait any longer for justice. Statutory windows to justice have been upheld constitutionally in other states, and the caucus believes that it is acceptable and necessary here in Pennsylvania.
“This is a disappointing setback in the process to create the window to justice,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, Jr. “If we continue with the constitutional amendment process, it will be at least another 2 years until the window would be created and that’s simply too long. A legislative solution can create the window immediately, and I’m encouraging bipartisan and bicameral support for the bill that members of our caucus is going to introduce. Survivors need justice now.”
Senators Maria Collett, Katie Muth, Lindsey Williams, and Steve Santarsiero and Tim Kearney will be introducing the bill immediately and have been champions for survivors of sexual assault since they were each elected in 2018.
“To say I am disappointed by this setback is an understatement,” said Senator Collett. “I am devastated on behalf of the victims of childhood sex abuse in my district and across the Commonwealth who have shared with us their heartbreaking stories and entrusted us to bring them long-overdue justice and path to healing. The last thing these victims need is another delay, another slight that makes them feel like no one cares about their pain. Regardless of our politics, religion, age or gender, we all know that the institutions whose failures led to these victims’ trauma need to be held accountable. The legislation my colleagues and I are introducing will correct the mistake made by the Department of State and bring victims across Pennsylvania one step closer to justice.”
“Legislative action is long overdue and with this latest delay waiting another two years is simply unacceptable,” said Senator Muth. “The General Assembly needs to pass a statutory window as soon as possible and finally allow justice and healing for these victims.”
“The time for debating has long passed,” said Senator Santarsiero. “There is no need to amend our State Constitution. The General Assembly has the authority to pass the two-year window to give the victims of child sex abuse what they have long sought and what they so dearly deserve: justice.”
“Victims cannot wait any longer for justice,” said Senator Williams. “We need to pass a statutory window immediately.”
“We led the fight last session to reform Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations, and we will not let up now,” said Senator Kearney. “The process of a constitutional amendment was unnecessary in the first place. Survivors have waited long enough for justice, and they shouldn’t have to wait another two years because of an administrative mistake. We must pass this bill now, because justice delayed is justice denied.”
On behalf of these survivors, the Senate Democrats ask for a swift passage of the new bill and the Governor’s commitment to make its passage a priority.
Read more about the legislation here.