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Pennsylvania Survivors Stand Their Ground in the Fight for Rights

The tenacity and strength of Pennsylvania’s survivors of child sexual abuse cannot be understated.

After more than 16 years of statewide lobbying for legislative reform—as well as a harrowing setback due to a “clerical error” by the Secretary of State—survivors and their allies are back in Harrisburg, continuing the fight for survivors’ rights.

Last week, they gathered to show overwhelming support for a two-year retroactive window for survivors of child sexual abuse. The bill, HB 951, has already passed through the House. Survivors and advocates are leaning on the Republican-controlled Senate to pass the bill.

At the same time, companion legislation was approved to put a constitutional amendment on the general ballot, to ensure the constitutionality of any windows. But due to a “clerical error,” in which the proposed amendment was not properly advertised, the status of that ballot measure is currently in limbo.

Neither of these bills would have seen the light of day were it not for hundreds of brave survivors. They have worked with legislators for more than a decade to pass legislation allowing survivors to have their day in court. They have faced fierce opposition, blowback in the community, repeated defeats, and harsh criticism from Church officials. They kept fighting, however, and, bolstered by the 2018 Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report into Pennsylvania’s Catholic dioceses, they refuse to give up hope.

We applaud every single person who has worked on these anti-crime bills. Survivors like the Fortney sisters—five of whom were sexually abused by a priest. Instead of standing back, they have taken center court in the battle to help other survivors.

We encourage anyone who was sexually abused as a child in Pennsylvania to stay the course. There is hope. New York lawmakers took 15 years to pass the Child Victims’ Act. We are confident that Pennsylvania’s Senate will stand on the side of survivors, not predators.