III. CURRENT PENNSYLVANIA LEGISLATION REGARDING CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE AND
GRAND JURY REPORT
Pennsylvania child sexual abuse laws are considered among the worst in the country in
protecting children from sexual abuse due to the civil and criminal statutes of limitations. 148
Pennsylvania is lagging behind many states in updating its statutes, despite being the state that has
generated the most grand jury reports on child sexual abuse in the country. 149
The civil system and the criminal justice system serve different functions. 150 The civil
system serves the purpose of redressing the impact of abuse on the victim, past or present. 151 It
also creates a deterrent for future institutional misconduct by imposing damages for endangering
children. 152 The criminal justice system protects future victims through incarceration of the
offender and by requiring the offender to register on the sex offender registry. 153 Altering one
justice system and not the other, or altering neither, deprives victims of complete justice. No state
has eliminated both civil and criminal statutes of limitations on child sexual abuse to date. 154
Under Pennsylvania’s current civil statute of limitations, victims who were under the age
of eighteen when the abuse occurred can file civil claims until they reach the age of thirty. 155 That
means a victim only has twelve years to come forward. According to Pete Saunders, the founder
of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC), “the average time for a
victim to speak out is twenty-two years after the last incident of abuse, but it can be much, much
There are forty-one states, plus the District of Columbia, that have amended their statute
of limitations for criminal prosecution for child sexual abuse since 2002, including
Pennsylvania. 157 In 2002, the criminal statute of limitations in Pennsylvania was extended from
twenty-three years old to thirty-one years old. 158 In 2010, the statute was revised and now criminal
charges in Pennsylvania can be brought until the alleged victim reaches the age of fifty, if he or
she was born after August 27, 2002.159
148 Michelle Merlin & Carol Thompson, How other state’s lawmakers have dealt with sex abuse legislation, and why
Pennsylvania’s may be behind, THE MORNING CALL (Sept. 8, 2018), https://www.mcall.com/news/breaking/mc-nws-
149 HAMILTON, supra note 10.
150 Id. at 37.
151 Id. at 38.
153 Id. at 37.
154 HAMILTON, supra note 10, at 6.
155 Dave Sutor, House, Senate child abuse bills both address statute of limitations, differ on retroactivity, THE TRIB.-
DEMOCRAT (Feb. 28, 2017), https://www.tribdem.com/news/house-senate-child-abuse-bills-both-address-statute-of-limitations/ article_1fb104ea-fe09-11e6-8154-2b774e538b47.html.
156 Polly Dunbar, Why abuse victims wait until their twilight years to come forward, THE TELEGRAPH (June 19, 2016),
157 HAMILTON, supra note 10, at 5; Merlin & Thompson, supra note 148; Kevin Jones, Does the Pa. grand jury report
mean changes for statutes of limitations? CATH. NEWS AGENCY (Aug. 17, 2018),
158 HAMILTON, supra note 10, at 26.
159 Sutor, supra note 155.