Saturday, January 26, 2013

PA Statute of Limitations for child victims of sex abuse expansive

Matthew T. Mangino
The Altoona Mirror
January 20, 2013

A group of 11 young men recently settled a lawsuit against a Warren, Ohio parochial school, the Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio and an order of Franciscan Friars. The lawsuit alleged the young men were sexually assaulted by a friar in the mid-1980s.

Only one of the 11 cases remains viable for criminal prosecution in Ohio. The Franciscan Brother, Stephen Baker, allegedly involved in the assaultive conduct is based at St. Bernardine’s in Hollidaysburg and had a presence at Altoona and Johnstown parochial schools in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Unlike Ohio, potential criminal prosecutions remain viable in Pennsylvania. Although an effort to abolish the statute of limitation for child victims of sexual abuse stalled in the legislature last fall, Pennsylvania has a broad and encompassing statute that could be useful if accusations are made against Baker in Pennsylvania.

The statute of limitations plays an important and long-standing role in criminal and civil jurisprudence. The statute of limitations has been around since antiquity. As time passes, memory fades, witnesses die and evidence disappears. The statute of limitations protects individuals from facing charges under those hopeless circumstances.

However, young victims of sex abuse are often reluctant to come forward. No one would advocate that a sexual predator should escape responsibility by way of a fortuitous passage of time. A victim's conduct after an assault often conflicts with what one would expect. Jerome Elam, a victim of child sexual abuse, wrote in The Washington Times, "As victims of childhood molestation boys face significant and unique barriers in reporting what they intuitively know is inappropriate behavior." (See "An end to silence: Child sex abuse victims speaking out," Nov. 27, 2011.)

Statistically, one in eight males is a victim of abuse and a child has to tell seven adults of suspected abuse before he or she is taken seriously. Elam suggested that rates of suicide among male victims of childhood sexual abuse are 14 times higher than the norm and child victims are 38 times more likely to die from a drug overdose.

As research on the long term trauma endured by child victims of sexual assault became increasing available the Pennsylvania legislature moved to expand the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse twice in a little more than a decade.

Prior to 2002, the statute of limitations for pursuing criminal prosecution of child sexual assault was five years after the victims 18th birthday.

In 2002, the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse was extended to 12 years after the victim’s 18th birthday. In 2007, the statute of limitations was extended as part of a comprehensive package of statutes related to child abuse. As a result, the Commonwealth now has until the victim’s 50th birthday to file criminal charges for abuse that occurred before the victim turned 18.

The new law applies to any case in which the statute of limitations had not yet expired before the law took effect. Pursuant to a 1988 Superior Court decision the time for prosecution may be extended by a legislative change if the prior period has not yet expired.

For instances, a young boy was sexually assaulted by an adult. He turned 18 years of age in 1998. When he turned 18 the statute of limitation was five years. In 2002, while the victim could still file a timely criminal complaint, the statute of limitation was extended to 12 years. Five years later, while the victim was again able to file a timely criminal complaint, the statute was extended until the victim turns 50.

An offense that occurred sometime prior to 1998 will still be viable for criminal prosecution until 2030, and if the legislature gets its way the statute may soon be abolished and there will be no time limit on pursuing criminal charges.


Anonymous said...

What if you were 4 in 1971 and was sexually abused by older brother who was 14. Can a person still be able to file charges. My nightmares still continue and I see a psychiatrist over it.

Anonymous said...

At 8, I was also sexually abused by an older minor brother. He should pay as he destroyed my child & adulthood as I have been diagnosed as having PTSD. So I would also like an answer to Anonymous' July 15, 2014 1:14am question. Please advise.

Anonymous said...

My son went on a mission trip as a young teen and was ridiculed and belittled by the adult leaders on this trip. At the time he was dealing with dyslexia as well as severe acne. They made fun of him on the way to Mexico and the first night, because the adults were bullying him, this gave the other kids license to do the same. They put an open chocolate bar in his sleeping bag and in the extreme heat, it melted all over him and the kids made fun of him. He was so humiliated! The leader assigned everyone to work in groups of at least 3, but assigned him to crawl under the building alone and to clean out the crawl space in 102 degree heat. The abuse culminated with the adult male leader reaching into my son's shorts in front of the whole group and pulling his underwear up to his chest, causing physical pain and injury to his groin as well as the extreme humiliation he suffered. As his parents, we wanted to deal with this issue, but as a young teen, he begged us not to cause him any additional embarrassment with his "friends". This incident caused a complete change in his personality and in his attitude toward church. He suffered from depression and for a while lost his identity. Now that some time has past and he has no lasting relationships with this church group, I really would like to confront this situation. It was heartbreaking that nobody in his group stood u p for him. A leader from another church group that was there at the same time, saw how he was treated and actually hugged him and apologized for the actions of his group leaders. I considered it a sexual assault because it was intentional and the man reached into my son's shorts and because it caused pain to his sexual organs. I would appreciate any legal expertise in this matter.

Anonymous said...

I have four nieces who were sexually assaulted by dad/uncle, now they want to take him to court, they are grown, married and have there own families. What is the statute of limitations? Abuse lasted 18 years. said...

was abuse when I was 16 then I live with this person till the age of 27 ihjave two children can I still press chages we ataring have sex when I wasd16

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