Statute of Limitations
Your Statute of Limitations Reform Testimony
The Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary will hold a hearing on October 2nd to listen to testimony regarding the numerous statute of limitation (SOL) reform bills that are awaiting vote.
The appointed Pennsylvania Victim Advocate, Jennifer Storm, will provide a consolidated testimony to the Senate on behalf of all sexual assault victims/survivors. You have the opportunity to submit your testimony directly to the Victim Advocate, if you choose. Your testimony may remain anonymous or may include your name. Additional information is provided below.
What You Need to Know about SOL in PA
Statute of limitations (SOL) set the maximum time after an event for an individual to bring forth legal proceedings.
Criminal suits are prosecuted by the government where often punishment of punitive measures are sought. Typically, civil suits are disputes between two parties where financial reimbursements and accountability in court are the common remedy. The standard of proof is quite different – generally, criminally cases must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt,” whereas civil cases tend to have lower standard of proof such as “the preponderance of the evidence.”
A window of time is often passed alongside reform to allow previously time-barred victims the opportunity to seek justice. Often referred to as a “window to justice,” this can be set for any length of time and offered one time only.
There are three (3) separate bills currently sitting with the Pennsylvania legislature. This table offers an overview of the current laws and what is awaiting vote.
|Civil - Childhood Sexual Abuse||Criminal - Childhood Sexual Abuse||Criminal - Adult Major Sexual Offenses||Civil - Adult Major Sexual Offenses|
|Current Law in Pennsylvania |
|Civil statute of limitations is capped at the age of adulthood plus 12 years, i.e. age 30 for most.||Criminal statute of limitations is capped at the age of adulthood plus 32 years, i.e. age 50 for most.*||Criminal statute of limitations for adults is capped at 12 years after the offense was committed.||Civil statute of limitations for adults is capped at 2 years after the offense was committed.|
|Proposed Legislation in Pennsylvania |
|House Bill 962 extends the civil statute of limitations for child victims to age 55 and removes the sovereign and government immunity going forward. It also abolishes the criminal statute of limitations, but for children only. ||Does not apply to adults.||Does not apply to adults.|
|House Bill 963 calls for a constitutional amendment that opens a two-year window for child victims that were previously time-barred.||Does not apply to adults.||Does not apply to adults.|
|Senate Bill 540 fully abolishes both the civil and criminal statute of limitations for all child and adult victims of sexual abuse. It further creates a two-year retroactive window, allowing those previously time-barred, regardless of age, to have an opportunity to file suit against their abuser and/or institution who knowingly concealed the abuse. |
*The criminal statute of limitations has been amended multiple times. Therefore, not every victim in Pennsylvania has until age 50. If the crime occurred prior to the multiple extensions of the statute, then it falls under the statute that applied at the time of the crime. It is best to consult an attorney to make an accurate determination of your statute of limitations.
OVA's full position paper on Statute of Limitations is available to read, print and share. (pdf)
Submitting Your Testimony
If you choose to submit testimony to the Office of Victim Advocate, you will be asked a series of open ended questions via a confidential web form (links below). Your testimony will be submitted directly to the Victim Advocate.
There are two separate web forms – one in which you may remain completely anonymous; one in which you will be asked to provide your name. Both forms include a release of information acceptance before you submit to allow the Victim Advocate to speak on your behalf.
You may also call the Office of Victim Advocate at 800.563.6399 (M – F, 8 am – 4:45 pm) and have a Victim Assistance Coordinator help you with crafting and submitting your testimony. They can verbally walk you through the process and answer any questions you have.
All testimonies must be submitted by September 20, 2019.
Reliving your trauma is hard. In order to provide testimony, you will be asked to revisit experiences you’ve had. You will be asked about the emotional and psychology impact, the physical impact, the financial impact. You will be asked how you think the laws should be changed to reflect the voice of sexual assault victims in Pennsylvania.
Please know that your sacrifice is important. Your voice matters. On behalf of all victims/survivors, we sincerely thank you for the courage you are showing in sharing.
Before you begin, please have a self-care plan in place, should you need to take a break during your writing process or to engage when you are completed. Your personal self-care plan could contain any of the following that work for you:
• Have a friend ready to provide support for you either in person or on the phone.
• Plan a walking route or a have yoga mat laid out.
• Cultivate a comforting space where you can unplug in a way that feels safe to you – a blanket and movie, dancing with loud music, a book and a smoothie, etc.
• Spend time in your garden. Or with your punching bag.
• Call your local rape crisis center and or the Office of Victim Advocate Monday through Friday 8 am to 4:45 pm.