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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court May Have Just Shown Us Why a Sex Abuse Amendment is So Important

PA Supreme Court ends sex abuse survivor's search for justice“We need not resolve this issue as it is clear the statute of limitations expired decades ago.” These are the words penned by Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Christine Donohue when writing for the 5-2 majority that seemingly ended a sex abuse survivor’s effort to get justice.

The lawsuit was brought by a woman over claims of sexual abuse endured at the hands of her Roman Catholic priest in the late 1970s. Renee Rice alleges that the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese worked to cover up the abuse committed by Rev. Charles F. Bodziak as Rice cleaned his living quarters as a child.

In issuing its decision, the Court stated that the statute of limitations started running at the time of Bodziak’s last assault on Rice, which according to Rice was in 1981. According to NBC Philadelphia, Rice made no claims against Bodziak or the Church until a grand jury began investigating the routine sexual abuse of children by Pennsylvania Catholic priests in 2016.

That statute of limitations is at the center of an effort in Pennsylvania and other states to pass an amendment to their constitutions that would establish a window of opportunity for sexual abuse survivors to come forward regardless of how long ago the abuse had occurred. Pennsylvania’s amendment passed its second House of Representatives vote in June of this year. Changes to Pennsylvania’s constitution need to be approved by both of its legislative chambers in two consecutive sessions. Should that occur, the issue is then put to a state referendum vote for the people to decide. The amendment was strongly supported through both House sessions.