October 5, 2011
In 2007, the Delaware General Assembly passed the “Child Victims’ Act,” repealing the two-year statute of limitations in child sexual abuse cases – and creating a two-year “window” during which victims in older cases could sue their abusers. As a lifelong Catholic, authoring and sponsoring the Child Victims’ Act was a difficult decision for me because I knew that a great many of the lawsuits would be filed against my own church. Difficult as it was, I knew that it was the right thing to do.
Child sexual abuse is an epidemic in this country. One in four girls – and one in six boys – is sexually abused as a child. The average age of the victims is nine. The abuse has devastating effects on victims for their entire lives. We, as a society, pay the price for the abuse – instead of the abusers and the institutions that hid them and enabled them.
I certainly understand that some members of the House Judiciary Committee might be reluctant to address this issue because the Catholic Church is a powerful force in Pennsylvania (as it is in Delaware). But I can tell you from first-hand experience that the Church’s threats and dire predictions are empty. Not one school, church, or program was closed in the Diocese of Wilmington as a result of the Child Victims’ Act. The same is true throughout the country where lawsuits have been filed. Please give the victims a voice by holding public hearings on HB 832 and HB 878. They had no voice as little children being abused – but you can give them a chance to tell their stories and appeal for justice.
Karen E. Peterson, Senator