Op-Ed: We Should Never Politicize Child Abuse

Two years ago when the latest reports surfaced on child abuse, the Pennsylvania Senate took immediate action.  The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 261 on February 1, 2017.  This landmark legislation completely eliminated the criminal statute of limitations moving forward and increased the age an abuse survivor may file a civil suit for action regarding child sexual abuse from the current age thirty to age fifty.  Additionally, and very importantly, SB 261 removed sovereign immunity from public entities.  For the first time, a survivor of child sex abuse committed in a public school would be able to file a civil action against a public school district and be awarded just compensation.

Unfortunately, rather than pass this groundbreaking legislation and send it to the Governor, the State House of Representatives waited, until September 25, 2018 to amend the bill and return it to the Senate.

More unfortunately, the House amended version of 261 included only two of the four recent grand jury recommendations, and very unfortunately SB 261 created two levels of prosecution—one for churches, one for public settings.  Both of these motions seriously flawed the bill, and the Senate deserved some time to review the bill, and then negotiate with the House to make the bill accommodate the full grand jury report and to remove the two levels of prosecution.  On this point, sexual abuse is sexual abuse.  Does it matter where it occurs?  If your child is sexually abused in a school, is it any less of a crime than if they would be sexually abused in church?  Have no doubt, sexual abuse as well as all other forms of abuse are abhorrent and cannot be tolerated in our society.  Prosecution of these crimes needs to be consistent so there is no doubt in our society of the seriousness of these crimes.

Additionally, I authored a bill which will increase the penalties for domestic abusers who commit these horrible crimes in front of children.  The Governor signed this bill, SB 1092 into law on Tuesday, October 23, 2018.  I, my colleagues as well, stand in full support of eliminating child abuse of all sorts from our society.

So I find it very strange that there is now an effort to mock the Senate’s attempt to further improve upon SB 261.  The current attack ads are purely political, but even more so make a mockery of the very abuse survivors they purport to want to help.  Solely for political reasons there is an attempt to make the abuse victims even greater victims by making a mockery of the Senate’s efforts.  When is enough, enough?  Sexual abuse victims deserve remedy, not being used as pawns in a political effort!


– State Senator Bob Mensch