HARRISBURG (KDKA) - Victims of child sex abuse are looking for justice and their day in court. But they say legislation to grant them that opportunity is stalled in the state legislature.
The legislation would give the victims a two-year window in which to sue their alleged abusers. Some say they've waited decades and don't want to wait any longer.
"It started off just hands and one day I was drugged and raped," said Bill, a child abuse victim.
The words shock the conscience. Five decades ago, Bill says he suffered unspeakable abuse at the hands of Father Richard Mueller at the former St. Canice Parish in Knoxville.
"Always contemplated suicide. Finally coming to terms with this after 40, 50 years. Fifty years of this," he said.
But for Bill, justice remains elusive. He's suing the Diocese of Pittsburgh but needs the legislature to temporarily change the statute of limitations to have his case heard. Though the Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a bill to do that, Majority Leader Kim Ward is indicating she won't put it up for a floor vote.
"She is choosing to protect institutions and bad actors. It's just that simple," said Kathryn Robb with Child USAdvocacy.
While child advocates accuse Ward of bending to pressure from the church, they stress the bill covers all victims of child sexual abuse.
"The vast majority of victims are victims of child sexual abuse in the home. The church or any religious institution is a very small part of the pie of perpetrators so to speak," said Robb.
For her part, Senator Ward says the ineptitude of the Wolf administration put her in this situation. A bill to put the two-year window up for public referendum passed both the House and Senate but the referendum died after former Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar failed to advertise it. The new bill doesn't call for a referendum. Ward says it's unconstitutional and will get struck down in the courts.
In a statement, she says the Senate will continue to pursue a solution with compassion for advocates and goes on to say, "however, as lawmakers, we have a responsibility to ensure we provide victims with the strongest legal path forward to face their abusers in court."
But her reasoning isn't sitting well with those advocates and the victims.
"I don't buy it. Survivors don't buy it, and survivors aren't going away," said Robb.
"They need to get this passed. Done. And take care of these victims and hopefully prevent more victims," said Bill.
The scars of child sexual abuse last a lifetime, and most of these victims say they've waited most of their lives for justice. Now it appears they must continue waiting.
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