WILKES-BARRE — Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is calling on legislators — “every single member of the General Assembly” — to immediately end the statute of limitations in sex abuse cases.
DePasquale made the announcement following this week’s release regarding the horrifying revelations in the grand jury report into sexual abuse and cover-ups in Pennsylvania Catholic churches.
“My heart goes out to the victims who suffered abuse at the hands of church leaders,” DePasquale said. “It’s incomprehensible that a child should endure such abuse, and then have that abuse covered up by those more concerned with protecting their own interests than those of innocent victims.”
DePasquale commended Attorney General Josh Shapiro and the men and women of the grand jury “for the courage to tenaciously explore and report on decades of horrific sexual abuse and cover-ups in Pennsylvania Catholic churches.”
DePasquale added, “I also applaud the victims who came forward to share their stories with the grand jury and provide support for other victims suffering in silence. It is long past time to enact this change.”
DePasquale said Rep. Mark Rozzi has introduced legislation “so that childhood and adult victims of sexual abuse can finally have a chance to see the monsters who abused them brought to justice in a court of law.”
DePasquale said “it is long past time to enact this change.”
Area lawmakers also weighed in, at the Times Leader’s request.
• Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, said that while he harbors some reservations about the use of Pennsylvania’s grand jury system and its impact on an individual’s right to due process, the report signals a tragic shortcoming in how we deal with the issue of child sexual abuse.
“Every organization and every person entrusted with the care of a child should be held to the highest standards of accountability, and if they violate that trust by shielding the abuser instead of protecting the abused, then they should feel the full weight of the criminal justice system,” Yudichak said.
• Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, said the breadth and duration of the abuse and the cover-up is heartbreaking and disconcerting.
“Just as I supported far-reaching remedies in juvenile justice to protect children, I believe that decisive legislative action is needed now,” Baker said.
“Last year, the Senate unanimously passed legislation to strengthen child sexual abuse laws. I have long supported balancing the scales of justice for victims, which is why I also voted for Marsy’s law to amend Pennsylvania’s Constitution to give crime victims equal protections through permanent, enforceable rights — the same already afforded to criminal suspects.”
• Sen. John Blake, D-Archbald, noted that in April, the Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 261, which would eliminate the statute of limitations in “these horrible cases.”
“It is my hope that the House moves on Senate Bill 261 in the session days remaining this fall so that we can get it to the governor’s desk before this legislative session ends,” Blake said.
“I think it is next to impossible for any lawmaker not to support legislating these recommendations to protect victims of these heinous acts.”
• Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Newport Township: “Reading the accounts detailed in Attorney General Shapiro’s grand jury report and listening to the abuse survivors’ personal stories has only confirmed and strengthened my support for these legislative measures,” Mullery said.
• Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Butler Township: Now is the time for the community to contact their legislators and tell them what they want legislators to change.
“We are your voice,” Toohil said. “We need to rip off the cloak of silence and address the civil and criminal statute of limitations. There are victims today that were silenced years ago and they deserve their day in court. This report is horrifying and beyond criminal. The fact that victims were coerced and silenced to protect the institution is heart-wrenching.”
Toohil said the statute of limitations civilly and criminally should not apply to adults who were abused as children. The average age of someone coming out about being abused is age 50. The statute of limitations needs to afford redress to these victims.
• State Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre: Supports Rep. Rozzi’s efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice and would be willing to vote to end the statute of limitations and give the victims the chance at justice they deserve.
• Rep. Mike Carroll, D-Avoca: “In light of the horrific details in the report, I support the elimination of the criminal statute of limitations for sexually abusing children.”
• Rep. Aaron Kaufer, R-Kingston: “Survivors deserve their day in court.”
“I support the recommendations of the grand jury and support Rep. Rozzi’s legislative push,” Kaufer added. “The stories outlined are disgusting and have turned my stomach, and people deserve justice.”
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.