Clergy abuse survivor: Current SOL bill not right for state, pushing for retroactivity

Shaun Dougherty, a Johnstown man who is a survivor of clergy abuse and advocate sat down with 6 News Monday afternoon.

JOHNSTOWN - For months, lawmakers and advocates have pushed for changes to the child sex abuse statute of limitations law.

House Bill 1947 currently sits in the state House Rules Committee and survivors of child sex abuse are hoping a bill will once again include what they call a key part: retroactivity for past victims.

Others have called it a controversial measure.

The bill, as it is currently, written, would eliminate the criminal statute of limitations, would allow victims to file civil lawsuits up to age 50 against institutions and allow future victims to indefinitely file civil lawsuits against their abusers.

But the language aimed at helping past victims was taken out of the legislation in June before eventually passing unanimously in the state Senate. The bill with retroactive language had passed in the House 180 to 15 earlier this year.

Shaun Dougherty, a Johnstown man who is a survivor of clergy abuse and advocate sat down with 6 News Monday afternoon:

6 News: You don't believe the bill as it's written today is the right bill for the state?

Shaun Dougherty: No, this is not the right bill for the state.

6 News: Why is that?

Dougherty: Right now, we have an obligation to the community. We know these things are going on. We have a commitment and an opportunity to listen to the voices to hear exactly what happened to past victims -- who has covered up what for how long? How many people have been involved and the only way to do that is through litigation.

6 News: If the bill doesn't pass this year, do you think there's a chance it happens next year?

Dougherty: I think it will happen eventually. I think if we don't pass it right now, I think everyone in the next several years is going to feel really guilty that we didn't pass it, because the AG's report was the tip of the iceberg.

6 News: Have you thought about your situation, will you file a lawsuit if it comes down to this or have you not decided --?

Dougherty: Many people have asked me this and I have discussed it and gone back and forth... I haven't wholeheartedly made the decision, but I feel it's my right because that's what is left. Because, quite frankly, I can't get what I want --

6 News: And that is --?

Dougherty: I was told in a town hall meeting by [Sen. John Eichelberger] that victims want money. Well, that's not what I want. That's what is left. That's what you settle for. They can't give me what I want. What I want is I want to pull into my mother's house and not see the church where I was abused and think happy thoughts when I see St. Clements and see my fifth grade class clear as [a] bell from Goucher Street right there with the windows. I don't want to think about what happened to me. They can't give me that.

6 News reached out to Sen. Eichelberger for comment.

"[Shaun Dougherty] was misrepresenting some of what I said. I said some of the victims would be suing," said Eichelberger (R-Hollidaysburg). "Whatever he wants, that's up to him. We're trying to rectify what happened. They want retroactivity and we can't do that."

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