Victims of clergy sexual abuse fight for a change; 1,000 victims not seeing their day in court

Local News

Survivors of clergy sexual abuse say a bill that didn’t go up for a vote in the Pennsylvania Senate is not dead.

Victims of priest abuse in the Catholic Church are making it their mission to tell lawmakers their stories and to keep pushing to reform the statute of limitations. 

After 37 years of silence, Jim VanSickle finally watched his abuser, former Priest David Poulson, admit to his crimes. “When he actually said, ‘I’m guilty,’ I became very emotional, but I also felt like I needed to be strong and stand up, so as he was leaving the courtroom, as he got up out of his chair, I stood up in the front and faced him.” 

But Poulson is one of two predator priests in Pennslyvania able to be charged out of 301. 

Last month, the State Senate adjourned without voting on legislation to reform the statute of limitations.  The bill proposed would have eliminated the statute of limitations for childhood sexual assault claims and would include a one-time, two-year window for past victims who’ve aged out to come forward with their cases. 

Advocate Tina Naylor-Riston tells us, “The advocacy is something that I look forward to, given what the needs are of the survivors, and there are so many.”

But, advocates say their fight is far from over, now calling on lawmakers to revisit the issue and pass the bill.

VanSickle says, “I’ve had senators stand by me in news conferences and literally say, ‘we need to vote for this bill and we need to do it now.'”  He also says he’s not after the church but he’s after the criminals.

Survivors want their message to be clear when the Senate returns to session. They say the only chance at justice is reforming the statute. 

Advocates say so far, only four victims in Pennsylvania have had their day in court.  That means there’s likely still nearly 1,000 other victims who haven’t had their day in court. 

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