After the scandal broke, with the eyes of the nation on Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Corbett assembled the Task Force for Child Protection, an 11-member coalition tasked with combing through Pennsylvania laws related to child sex abuse. “This task force has a tremendously important job,” Corbett said at the time. “It will provide input to help us strengthen state laws and ensure every Pennsylvania child receives the protection from harm they deserve.”
Statute of limitation, however, is not on the Task Force agenda.
Certainly, an analysis is needed: According to the Department of Health and Human Services 2010 Child Maltreatment Report, Pennsylvania is a statistical outlier in the investigation and determination of child abuse. We investigate child abuse 8.3 per 1,000 children versus 40.3 per 1,000 children nationally, and then we determine a child is a victim of child abuse 1.4 per 1,000 children versus 9.3 per 1,000 nationally.
The low numbers are not, as evident by scandals that made Pennsylvania look like the poster state for child sex abuse last year, due to lower incidence than elsewhere.
But there’s good news. Bishop says that for the first time, she participated in a real conversation in Harrisburg about SOL reform. She says that two weeks ago she sat down with both Rep. Marsico and Rep. Caltagirone.
“I don’t know if my bill per se will move, but I’ll tell you this, it’s moving enough that there’s been a meeting on it, there’s been talk on it … which I’ve never had before. It is now in Chairman Marsico’s committee, it was always in Democratic committee chairman Thomas Caltagirone and he wanted no discussion on it, none whatsoever, I have had one discussion with [Marsico], he didn’t say yes or no.”
Rep. Caltagirone declined to comment.
As for Church’s argument that pursuing statute of limitation reform is anti-Catholic, Pennsylvania’s scandals have pretty much defanged that theory. “The fact that the Penn State scandal and now [the Conlin case] have also hit the fan, in a sense, that can effectively defuse the accusation that, ‘Oh this anti-Catholic,’” says Sister Maureen Turlish.
“The one thing they didn’t count on,” says Lerner, “was the Penn State scandal and the Syracuse scandal, and on people getting educated on the issue.”
Just in the last few days, insiders are buzzing about the movement on current bills, if anything, will likely be to extend the civil statute of limitations from age 30 to age 50. Which is a start.
But the window, for now that remains shut, with survivors like Rep. Bishop who took decades to speak out, locked out of the courthouse, looking in.
PW's Summer Guide 2015