Sexual assault is the most under reported crime. According to Rape Abuse And Incest National Network at least 68% of all incidents are not reported. There are many reasons why victims of sexual abuse don’t come forward and report the incident to the authorities or file a sexual abuse lawsuit.
“The reasons many survivors remain silent are not black and white. They are complex” stated an article published by the LACASA Center following the Penn State scandal involving assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
Many victims experience feelings of self-blame, wrongfully believing that the abuse is their fault or that they could have done something to prevent or stop the incident. Many are also too ashamed to come forward.
The article also lists fear as a reason why children who were sexually abused do not come forward. The abuser may have threatened the victim or their family and they keep the incident a secret to protect their loved-ones. Many also fear that no one will believe their story or they will be shunned by those they care about.
LACASA also suggests that victims may be less likely to come forward if the abuse is a public figure or someone who is well liked and admired- like Jerry Sandusky or a Catholic priest.
Feelings of disillusionment can also prevent child victims from coming forward. Their life is forever changed by the incident and the belief that the world is a safe place has been shattered.
All of these feelings can prevent or delay a victim from filing a criminal report or a sexual abuse lawsuit. It can take years before a survivor is ready to face what append to them and make the decision to seek justice for what happened. Unfortunately, state laws, which vary across the country, prevent many victims from filing claim after a certain amount of time has passed, including those in Pennsylvania.
The National Conference of State Legislatures provides detailed information on the statute of limitations for sex abuse claims in all states. Some states give victim a finite amount of time to file a claim. For example, Alabama sex abuse lawsuits must be filed within two years. While child sex abuse victims in some states have a specified number of years after they reach the age of majority. Maryland allows victims seven years after their 18th birthday to file a claim, while Connecticut law gives victims 30 years after the age of majority. Pennsylvania may be lifting this bar that prevents victims from filing claims.
Currently, the statute of limitations allows child victims of sexual abuse to file a sex abuse lawsuit in Pennsylvania up until their 30th birthday. However, the Pennsylvania House voted 180-15 on April 12 in favor of House Bill 1947, which would extend the amount of time a child has to file a civil sexual abuse claim by 20 years, and abolish the statute of limitations altogether on criminal sex abuse lawsuits.
Before it can become a law, the bill must be approved by the Senate. If passed, the extended statute of limitations could open the door for hundreds of victims who say the statute of limitations has prevented them from seeking justice, Philly.com reported.