September 20, 2018

Reform proposed to strengthen mandatory reporting of sexual abuse in Pennsylvania

NORRISTOWN – Attorney General Josh Shapiro hosted a roundtable and press conference with state legislators, district attorneys, survivors of child sexual abuse and others to highlight the need for the legislature to approve four key reforms recommended by a statewide grand jury that investigated sexual abuse of minors by Catholic Church clergy and decades of institutional cover up by church leaders.

Attorney General Shapiro was joined at the Attorney General’s Trooper office by State Rep. Todd Stephens (R-151), Sen. John Rafferty (R-44), Montgomery County D.A. Kevin Steele, Bucks County D.A. Matthew Weintraub, PA Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm, and victims and their families of child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. 

Rep. Stephens announced at the news conference with Attorney General Shapiro that he is sponsoring legislation to strengthen the state law governing the mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse – a key reform recommended by the 40th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury. The grand jury released a report last month identifying 301 predator priests and more than 1,000 victims of clergy sexual abuse within six Dioceses in Pennsylvania – and a cover up by church officials that spanned decades.

“When the Grand Jury released its Report, I challenged all Pennsylvania Bishops to adopt and support each of these recommended reforms to Pennsylvania law,” said Shapiro.  “Sadly, none of them have. I’m proud to stand here today with Representative Stephens, district attorneys and survivors of child sexual abuse to take the first step towards adopting one of these essential reforms.”

“We know the vulnerability of young victims of sexual abuse, and they need every protection the law allows,” Rep. Stephens said. “We need to make sure our mandatory reporting law in place has the necessary teeth to protect victims and ensure law enforcement is notified of abuse allegations and can investigate whenever it is appropriate.”

Attorney General Shapiro and Rep. Stephens were joined at the news conference by two local prosecutors – Montgomery County D.A. Steele and Bucks County D.A. Weintraub – who lent their support for the mandatory reporting reform.

When the Grand Jury released its 884-page Report detailing decades of sexual abuse of children by priests and the resulting institutional cover up, it made four specific recommendations for reforms to prevent these abuses in the future. The recommendations are:

  1. Eliminate the criminal statute of limitations for sexually abusing children.
  2. Create a “civil window” so older victims may sue for damages. 
  3. Clarify penalties for a continuing failure to report child abuse.
  4. Specify that Civil Confidentiality Agreements do not cover communications with law enforcement.

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