Advocate calls for changing statute of limitations on child sex abuse
A man who said he was abused by a Catholic priest is pushing to change the statute of limitations for sexual offenses in Pennsylvania.
Dennis McKeown, who grew up in Ellwood City in Lawrence County, said he met with Bishop David Zubik of the Pittsburgh Diocese Thursday to discuss whether Zubik would support repealing the statute of limitations for sexual assault survivors in Pennsylvania.
“Any victim that was a child of sexual abuse, we should be able to have our cases heard, period,” McKeown, who now lives in Arizona, told reporters Friday at a news conference in Pittsburgh.
According to McKeown, Zubik indicated during the meeting that he would support the move.
A statement from the diocese Friday clarified that Zubik has publicly supported reforms of the Pennsylvania statutes of limitations for child sexual abuse since June 2016. Zubik supports abolishing the criminal statute of limitations for child sexual abuse as well as giving survivors more time to bring civil lawsuits, the statement said.
Survivors who experienced abuse as minors must bring criminal complaints against their abusers before they turn 50, according to Pennsylvania law. Civil lawsuits must be filed before the survivor’s 30th birthday.
McKeown, who is 55, said that survivors like him do not have any options under the current statute of limitations.
“As far as a filed lawsuit, no, because I can’t, because the laws don’t permit me,” McKeown said when asked if he is currently pursuing any legal action against the diocese. “I could, but it could end up being squashed, so why go through that right now until we get done what needs to be done. There’s a lot of work to still be done, but I hope it doesn’t take another 20 years.”
McKeown said that he is not participating in the Pittsburgh Diocese compensation program, which launched in January, and said he removed himself from a lawsuit seeking a settlement with the diocese in 2007.
“To me, it’s not about money,” McKeown said. “It is not about money, but you know, just having our day in court.”
Aaron Rihn, an attorney with Pittsburgh-based law firm Robert Peirce and Associates representing McKeown, commended Zubik for supporting the repeal but pointed out that his support alone is not enough to change the laws.
House lawmakers Mark Rozzi, D-Berks County and Jim Gregory, R-Blair County introduced two bills Wednesday aimed at changing the statute of limitations.
The first, House Bill 962, would allow survivors to file civil lawsuits until the age of 55 and would eliminate the statute of limitations on criminal complaints.
The second bill, House Bill 963, would allow for a two-year window for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to pursue action if the statute of limitations that applies to their situations has expired.
Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, [email protected] or via Twitter .