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abuse cases on the increase -- what do you think is fair?

Over the last several months the news media has been filled with disturbing cases of child abuse in churches and with some of our most trusted civic organizations. Child abuse is nothing new but the rate at which these cases are being reported is very alarming.  Last week a jury in Oregon entered a punitive damage verdict against the Boy Scouts in the amount of $18.5 million dollars. This in addition to a $1.4 million dollar compensatory award. The jury found that a Boy Scout counselor had admitted to molesting 17 boys,  and that the organization continued to allow him to have contact with young men including the plaintiff Kerry Lewis. Recently, the Catholic Church has been under fire, it seems throughout the world, for ignoring priests with records of sexual abuse while they continued to prey on the young and innocent.  What is perhaps most disturbing about these acts of abuse is that they are occurring in the institutions which we have always regarded as safe and nurturing environments for our children --  our most precious natural resource.  So, it is no surprise that violations of this sacred trust results in visceral anger.  It not only shocks us but is completely bewildering. We feel betrayed,  like an act of treason has been committed upon us and that the traitors should be - well - hung. It doesn't shock our consciousness when a jury punishes an institution like the Boy Scouts with such a large verdict. Does it send a message? I think - yes -  but you be the judge and the jury. What do you think is fair? The law in Pa. until rather recently has imposed a very limited Statute of Limitations on sexual abuse cases requiring that they be filed not later than the 20th birthday for acts committed before the child turns 18. Our current law, effective since 2002, permits a lawsuit to be filed not later than the 30th birthday for sexual abuse committed before the child turns 18. This means that the child gets a 10 year extension of the Statute of Limitations, as long as the first act of abuse occurred before they turned 18. We know that acts of sexual abuse often remain repressed for many years. All too often, because of guilt or fear, they are never exposed. Some states, such as Massachusetts are more lenient when it comes to time limitations on abuse cases. Unless the law changes again in Pa. we are stuck with the existing SOL.  My instinct and experience tells me that there are thousands of cases that never see the light of a courtroom or where the victim never gets the healing process that they so deserve. Dennis F Feeley

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