– Legislation sponsored by Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne) that would ensure no agreement can prohibit survivors of child sexual abuse from speaking with law enforcement officials today was sent to the governor for enactment after it passed unanimously on concurrence in the House of Representatives.
“My legislation makes it very clear that sexual abuse survivors in Pennsylvania will now be able to provide information to criminal investigators regarding the heinous crimes allegedly committed against them, even if they signed a confidentiality agreement years earlier,” said Toohil. “This long-overdue change in the law is a victory for survivors.”
To watch Toohil’s video comments, click here.
House Bill 1171
is derived from one of the recommendations of last year’s 40th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury, which focused on clergy sex abuse in Pennsylvania. The grand jury found that Roman Catholic dioceses used confidentiality agreements to silence abuse victims from speaking publicly or cooperating with law enforcement.
Specifically, Toohil’s measure would add a section of law which declares to be void and unenforceable any provision of a contract that prohibits the disclosure of the name of a person suspected of childhood sexual abuse, suppresses information relevant to an investigation of childhood sexual abuse or impairs the ability of a person to report a claim of childhood sexual abuse.
Toohil dedicated her bill to Audrey, a woman from northeastern Pennsylvania who was the victim of sexual abuse.
“Audrey was the poster child of the Grand Jury report. A priest molested her for five years, impregnated her and paid for her abortion,” Toohil added. “Today is a victory for Audrey and other survivors like her.”
House Bill 1171 is one of several pieces of legislation passed by the House to provide better protections for childhood sexual abuse survivors in Pennsylvania. They include House Bill 962, which would allow childhood victims to file suit until they reach age 55; House Bill 963, which would provide a two-year window to submit claims in civil court if the statute of limitations has already expired for that victim; and House Bill 1051, which would apply a higher penalty of third-degree felony for an ongoing failure to report continuing sexual abuse.
Gov. Tom Wolf has indicated he will sign the bills into law.
Representative Tarah Toohil
116th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Rep. Toohil’s Office