Advocacy at WOAR – Our Priorities
Advocacy at WOAR for survivors and victims of sexual violence, sexual assault, and sexual abuse happens every single day. Check back here regularly for updates on our current and ongoing work.
Childhood Sexual Abuse: Statute of Limitations Reform
What is the Statute of Limitations (SOL) for civil claims of sexual abuse in Pennsylvania?
A statute of limitations is a law that sets a deadline after an incident or crime occurred for filing a civil lawsuit or bringing criminal charges. Many people who have been sexually abused wait months, years, or decades before talking about what was done to them, let alone making a report to authorities. In light of this reality, in 2019, Pennsylvania extended the length of the statute of limitations for child victims of sexual abuse to bring civil lawsuits against the people who harmed them. Under the new statute of limitations law, child victims of sexual abuse have until they reach age 55 to sue those responsible for the abuse. Victims who were ages 18-23 at the time of the abuse have until age 30 to sue.
What is the “two-year window” (a.k.a. the “retroactive window” or the “revival window”)?
Even though the statute of limitations was made longer in 2019, what about the people who are currently older than 55 or 30 who could have sued if the new statute of limitations had been passed sooner? The proposed solution is to allow a one-time two-year catch-up period during which the statute of limitations would not apply, and all victims could bring suits regardless of their current age or how much time has passed since the abuse. After this two-year period, the regular statute of limitations limits would be enforced. This two-year suspension of the statute of limitations would apply to civil claims only, not to criminal charges.
Has the two-year window become law in Pennsylvania?
No, not yet.
Before 2019, efforts were made in the Pennsylvania General Assembly to create the two-year window by statute. A statute is an ordinary law voted on and passed by the legislature. The efforts failed, in part because some people believed the law would be unconstitutional under the Pennsylvania Constitution.
As a result, a new approach emerged to create the two-year window by amending the Pennsylvania Constitution. Amending the constitution is a lengthy process that involves two rounds of voting in the General Assembly and then a ballot vote by Pennsylvania voters in a statewide election. The constitutional amendment to create a two-year window was on track to go to Pennsylvania voters in the spring of 2021 but the process was derailed by an administrative error. It was discovered in early 2021 that the Secretary of the Commonwealth did not properly give the public notice of the proposed amendment.
What’s next for the statute of limitations two-year window?
After more than a decade of work on this issue, survivors are outraged and heartbroken that justice will be delayed further. WOAR is working with victims, survivors, advocates, and legislators across the state to seek a resolution. There are three possible options:
1. The constitutional amendment process can be started over, which will take at least until May 2023 to send the proposal to voters on the ballot.
2. The legislature could vote on an emergency constitutional amendment and send the question to voters sooner.
3. The legislature could pass a law (also known as a statute) to create the window at any time, and forgo the constitutional amendment route. This path would not require a decision by Pennsylvania voters.
Each of these options has pros and cons, including how long they will take. WOAR recognizes that establishing a window for victims to be able to bring civil claims against those who hurt them is of paramount importance to adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse in Pennsylvania.
What do Pennsylvania voters think?
A survey of voters found that 71% of Pennsylvania voters are aware that many adult victims of childhood sexual abuse cannot sue the people or institutions that harmed them because too much time has passed, and 82% of voters support these victims having a two-year period to sue and to seek civil remedies. Click here for the PCAR press release on the poll.
How You Can Help
- Stay informed.
- Get involved in WOAR’s advocacy work, click here.
To learn more about WOAR’s history of advocating for victims and survivors of sexual violence, click here.
Questions? Contact email@example.com.
Influencing Public Policy, Laws, and Budgets That Impact Sexual Violence in Philadelphia
There is a lot that happens at the government level that impacts victims and survivors of sexual violence. City, state, and federal governments all have a say in how budgets are:
- distributed to agencies like WOAR for the prevention of sexual violence
- how many resources are available to victims and survivors of sexual violence
- and the laws that govern the way perpetrators are prosecuted for their crimes including what happens to the perpetrators after prosecution.
Not everyone is called to get involved in helping to influence changes in policy or how budgets are spent, but if you are a person who is interested in getting involved at the government level, here are some things you could do to get involved:
How to Influence Government Decisions
1. Contact your local Senators, Representatives and City Council Members to advocate for the issues that matter most to you. You can send a letter, call the office and leave messages, or meet directly with your elected officials to discuss issues that matter to you. These things may seem small, and maybe even insignificant with regard to influencing change, but that is not true.
The things that affect your daily life are the laws put in place by your city and state governments.
Think about the amount of time organizations, like the NRA, spend meeting with elected officials to influence them about laws and budgeting (this is what Lobbying is). To give you an idea, the NRA spent $250 million dollars in 2020 trying to influence gun laws.
If it didn’t matter, they wouldn’t do it. Make your voice heard – it matters.
To find out who your elected officials are
- Click here for the U.S. Senators
- Click here for members of the U.S. House of Representatives
- Click here for the Pennsylvania General Assembly
- Click here for Philadelphia City Council
2. Vote! If you are not yet registered to vote, get registered by clicking REGISTER TO VOTE. And make sure you know where you need to go to vote in each election. The place you go to vote is called a polling place. You can find out where to go to vote in Philadelphia by clicking FIND MY POLLING PLACE.
3. Attend local Philadelphia City Council Meetings, law making sessions and rallies.
In the state of Pennsylvania, anyone can attend any public meetings of a council, community board, local board or council committee, including local Philadelphia City Council Meetings. The local Philadelphia City Council is very powerful. City Council Meetings are where the people representing your neighborhood make and change laws.
Philadelphia’s City Council is responsible for adopting the city budget, imposing taxes, making or amending city laws, policies, and ordinances, and approving the people that the Mayor appoints to city boards and commissions. The Philadelphia City Council is made up of 17 members. You can learn more about how our city and state government works and how you can engage with local officials about the things that matter most to you by going to How City Council Works by Committee of Seventy.
Committee of Seventy is the only independent, non-partisan organization in the region, and just like WOAR, it is also the oldest and largest in Pennsylvania. Some of the important work they do is to protect and improve the voting process, bring people of competence and integrity into government, combat corruption, and inform and engage citizens in the critical daily affairs of our government. Stay up to date on current issues in the news. Search for updates to issues you have been following and keep on top of them. Laws seem to change quickly at times – but the reality is they don’t change quickly. Often people just don’t know that laws or budgets are up for consideration (or re-consideration), and people only find out about it after things have already been changed.
4. Stay up to date on current issues in the news. Search for updates to issues you have been following and keep on top of them. Laws seem to change quickly at times – but the reality is they don’t change quickly. Often people just don’t know that laws or budgets are up for consideration (or re-consideration), and people only find out about it after things have already been changed.