HARRISBURG – Lancaster County Sen. Ryan Aument released a statement regarding Senate Bill 261, designed to protect victims of childhood sexual abuse. The bill passed the state House last month, but did not come up for a Senate vote on the legislative session’s last voting day. His complete statement is below:
“In the entirety of my service in the General Assembly, I have never been so heartbroken by any single issue than I was after I read the recent grand jury report on child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. How anyone – let alone a member of clergy – could sexually abuse a child is nearly beyond comprehension and it is evidence that real evil exists in our world. I personally know and have met with abuse survivors whose suffering is immeasurable, and as a father of two small children, I cannot begin to imagine how they must feel.
While the sexual abuse and exploitation of children has unfortunately always been part of the worst of our society, the magnitude and scope of the atrocities that have been exposed in the grand jury report demand that state government must take additional action to hold the perpetrators of these heinous crimes accountable.
To be clear – I have not spoken to any lawmaker that does not want to take action to help victims. That is why in January, 2017, the Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 261. While no law can fully bind the wounds of childhood sexual abuse, Senate Bill 261 sought to remove known, existing legal barriers to victims so that they could seek justice in both our criminal and civil courts. Since then, serious debates have occurred about whether Senate Bill 261 fully achieved that worthy goal, and in late September, 2018, the House of Representatives amended the bill to include additional remedies, including a civil statute of limitations reform with a retroactive window. For some victims, the retroactive window to seek civil justice is an important and necessary component to any legislative remedy. They desire the accountability that any other citizen would want if they were victimized, and I have supported them in that effort.
As the General Assembly continues to debate the most appropriate path to address these very serious issues, two things are certain. No law or legislation can ever truly undo the unspeakable victimization that occurred in this instance and while good people may disagree on how best government should intervene, doing nothing is not an option. With that said, the time to act is now. Reforms have languished for far too long.
I have and will continue to vote for any and all appropriate remedies to address these incredibly serious issues and the Senate should not adjourn for the 2017-18 session until an agreement is finally reached. Until then, I invite us all to respectfully remember that in the midst of a government debate, there are people – too many people – who, as children, suffered in inconceivable ways by adults who they trusted. They deserve our best efforts to fix Pennsylvania law, our support to help overcome their abuse, and our prayers that no other children – or person – ever be sexually abused again.”