What justice is available for PA victims of sexual abuse?

Will an attempt to reform the law help victims of child sex abuse find justice?

Our founders designed our legal system to provide victims of crimes two options to hold their abusers accountable for their wrongdoing: the criminal and civil systems. The criminal system serves to punish the abuser and deter others from similar wrongdoing. The civil system aims to make the victim whole through monetary awards that financially punish the perpetrator while providing funds for the victim to help him or her transition into a better future.

Unfortunately, there are flaws in the system. One such flaw: the statute of limitations.

Statute of limitations and child sex abuse in Pennsylvania

Current Pennsylvania law puts a time limit on when survivors of child sex abuse can file a lawsuit against their abusers. The law allows child victims until age 30 to file a civil claim and 50 to file criminal charges against their abuser. Lawmakers are considering a push for reform, as discussed in detail in a previous piece, available here.

Leaders in the church fight against reform

Not surprisingly, as noted in a recent publication by the York Daily Record, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference has fiercely opposed the proposal. The group takes particular issue with a two-year window that would allow survivors who have already lost the chance to file a civil claim an opportunity to pursue this form of justice.

Bishops have stated this “window to justice” could lead to bankruptcy and have a negative impact on ministries and social services. Instead, they have proposed a voluntary compensation fund to evaluate claims and provide compensation amounts. Although a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Catholic bishops has stated the fund would result in “swift, efficient” compensation, no specific details are available on the actual workings of the funds and determinations for awards.

Child sex abuse victims are wise to take proactive steps to protect their legal rights

Even if the law passes, it is likely to face a legal challenge. One potential legal issue involves whether or not the proposed window would be constitutional. A challenge of this nature could defeat the law if it succeeds in establishing the law was aimed solely at the Catholic Church.

Survivors note the real issue is the church’s continued attempts to protect predatory priests. One way to ensure abusers are held accountable: aggressive litigation. Regardless of the fate of the proposal, victims of child sexual abuse are wise to seek legal counsel to discuss their case. A clergy abuse lawyer can review your case, discuss the process and advocate for your right to bring your abuser to justice.

Verdicts and Settlements

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Ben and Nate took their time in handling my case with compassion and care. I never had to wonder what was going on. They always made sure to include me in each and every decision that needed to be made before they were made. Their entire staff was always very polite and knowledgeable. I cannot say enough kind words about Andreozzi + Foote; they are simply the best!

V. B.

One of the best personal injury lawyers in the country. Great experience. Really genuine people at Andreozzi and Associates.

B. E.

Handled our case SO well even though it took a long time to settle, and STILL helps us with paperwork related to the settlement account every now and then. They were honest with us from the get-go, worked REALLY hard on our behalf, and always kept in touch with us about what was going on. So pleased.

S. G.

When you and your child are victims of a horrid crime it’s hard to understand why things are the way they are. Information and answers are what you want, but unfortunately the system doesn’t offer that. Nathaniel has fielded and patiently listened to a broken mother wanting nothing more than for someone to help her understand why she has no answers, and through these phone calls Nathaniel has been very informative, honest and upfront. I would recommend Nathaniel and this firm to anyone who is seeking answers, help and professionalism in a firm when going through such difficult times.

S. L.

Can’t say enough about the kindness and compassion of this law office. They helped me immensely with a difficult case and the level of support they provided me was stellar.

L. A.

It is impossible to put into words our gratitude for Ben and Nate through the most trying time of our life. As scared, confused, and traumatized parents, the isolation and loneliness of litigation are abysmal. In the beginning, everyone surrounding you has endless bright ideas and can’t say enough how you should pursue action, but then when it comes down to it, these cheerleaders are suddenly silent and nowhere to be found in what feels to be your darkest hour. Thank God we had these two extraordinary men at our side from the moment we contacted them. Their friendship, counsel, and sound resolve to do everything they could in order to balance the scorecard meant more than we can ever convey, and is simply immeasurable. If we had known how simple this seemingly horrific ordeal would’ve been with their help from the start, we wouldn’t have agonized a single minute over doing what we did. If you are in a similar position as I’ve described, take advice from someone who’s been through the worst, thankfully with the best. Call them!

E.K.

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