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Home > Pennsylvania Child Sex Abuse Laws

Pennsylvania Child Sex Abuse Laws

Pennsylvania child sex abuse laws make child sexual abuse a crime and require most people who regularly have contact with children through their employment to report suspected sexual abuse to the proper authorities. 

a child is depressed because of sex abuse

Child sex abuse is a heinous act that causes irreparable harm that can last a lifetime. If you or your child has experienced sexual abuse, our Pennsylvania injury lawyers at Cordisco and Saile can help you file a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator and a school, church, sports organization, or other entity that failed to prevent the abuse.

The cost of sexual abuse to children and families is staggering. Children who suffer from sexual abuse require extensive support, therapy, and recovery time. Many children never fully recover and experience lifelong effects, including difficulty maintaining employment, relationship problems, and reduced quality of life.

We have a successful record of helping our satisfied clients who were injured through no fault of their own win substantial settlements and verdicts. Sexual abuse is never the victim’s fault, and we fight tirelessly to hold accountable those who perpetrate and enable sexual abuse. Contact us now for a free, no-obligation case review.

While a civil lawsuit can provide children and families with the financial resources they need to recover to the fullest extent possible, it only plays a partial role in getting justice. In addition to being a civil offense, child sex abuse is a crime. Individuals who work with children are legally required to report this crime to stop the abuse and ensure the perpetrator faces justice.

Is Reporting Child Sex Abuse Mandatory?

Everyone is responsible for protecting the safety and well-being of children in Pennsylvania. If you come into contact with children regularly as part of your employment, you are likely a mandatory reporter under the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law.

Mandatory reporters are people required by law to report child abuse if they reasonably suspect it is occurring. According to Title 23 § 6311 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, the following types of people are mandatory reporters:

  • Come into contact with children in the course of employment or through a regularly scheduled activity or service
  • Have direct responsibility for the care, supervision, or training of one or more children or is affiliated with agencies and organizations with such responsibilities, such as schools and churches

The Child Protective Services Law specifies that people who work in the following occupations are mandatory reporters:

  • Licensed health care providers, emergency care providers, and employees of licensed health care facilities who have contact with patients
  • Medical examiners, coroners, and funeral directors
  • School employees
  • Child care workers
  • Clergy, including priests, rabbis, ministers, Christian Science practitioners, and other religious leaders of regularly established religious institutions
  • Volunteers, paid employees, and subcontractors who have direct contact with children or responsibility for children’s well-being in regularly scheduled programs, activities, or services
  • Social service agency workers who have regular contact with children
  • Law enforcement officers and officials
  • Public librarians with regular contact with children
  • An attorney affiliated with an agency, institution, organization, or other entity, including a school or regularly established religious organization, responsible for the care, supervision, guidance, or control of children
  • Anyone who is supervised or managed by any of the above individuals
  • Foster parents
  • Adult family members who provide childcare services in the home or in community settings

You do not have to be a mandatory reporter to report suspected child sexual abuse. Pennsylvania law permits anyone who reasonably suspects child abuse to report it. People who voluntarily file reports of suspected abuse are known as permissible reporters.

How to Report Child Sex Abuse

You can report child sex abuse by calling ChildLine 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The telephone number is 1-800-932-0313. If you are a mandatory reporter, you may file a report electronically at www.compass.state.pa.us/cwis

How Is Child Sex Abuse Defined?

Sexual abuse is a broad category of sexual misconduct against children. The general legal definition of sexual abuse and exploitation is “the employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement or coercion of a child to engage in or assist another individual to engage in sexually explicit conduct.” 

Sexual abuse and exploitation of children include any of the following activities involving children who are under 14 years of age or children who are older than 14 and more than four years younger than the perpetrator:

  • Viewing a child’s intimate parts for sexual arousal or gratification
  • Sexually explicit conversation with children in person or electronically for sexual gratification
  • Real or simulated sexual activity or nudity involving a child for sexual purposes
  • Real or simulated sexual activity to produce child pornography

Sexual abuse and exploitation also include the following criminal offenses against a child:

  • Rape
  • Statutory sexual assault
  • Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse
  • Sexual assault
  • Institutional sexual assault
  • Aggravated indecent assault
  • Indecent assault
  • Indecent exposure
  • Incest
  • Prostitution
  • The production, possession, or dissemination of pornographic materials depicting children
  • Unlawful contact with a minor
  • Sexual exploitation
Pennsylvania child sex abuse laws graphic

How Does Pennsylvania Law Define Sexual Exploitation?

According to Title 18 § 6320 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, a person commits the offense of sexual exploitation of children by obtaining or making a child available for actual or simulated sexual activity or nudity to sexually gratify any person.

Child Sexual Abuse Is a Crime

Pennsylvania law defines child sex abuse as sexual contact between a child and an adult. Most sexual abuse of children is classified as a felony that can result in incarceration.

To determine sexual abuse, the law generally defines a child as someone 13 years old or younger, or as someone older than 13 but younger than 16 when the defendant is more than four years older and not married to the child.

Rape of a Child

Rape of a child under 13 is a first-degree felony with a penalty of up to 40 years of imprisonment. The perpetrator can be sentenced to life in prison for serious bodily injury. Rape of a child older than 13 but under 16 is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines. This crime has a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years.

Statutory Rape

Statutory rape is sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 16 to whom the defendant is not married and who is more than four years younger than the defendant. Statutory rape is a felony in the second degree punishable by up to 10 years in prison. 

If the abuser is 11 or more years older than the victim, statutory rape is upgraded to a first-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. If a child is younger than 13, the crime is classified as rape rather than statutory rape. 

Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse

Deviate sexual intercourse is any level of penetration, regardless of how slight, of the genitals or anus of another person with a foreign object other than for medical, hygienic, or law enforcement purposes. Deviate sexual intercourse is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison when perpetrated upon a child. 

If the child is under 13, this offense remains a first-degree felony, but the charge is upgraded to “involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child.” The criminal penalty is 40 years of imprisonment or life if the child suffers serious bodily injury.  

Institutional Sexual Assault

School employees and childcare workers who have direct, regular contact with students and engage in sexual intercourse, deviate sexual intercourse, or indecent contact with a student at the school under the age of 18 commit a third-degree felony punishable by up to seven years of imprisonment. 

Sports officials, volunteers, or employees of nonprofit associations such as churches and community recreational centers who have engaged in sexual intercourse, deviate sexual intercourse, or indecent contact with participants under 18 commit a third-degree felony that carries a sentence of up to 7 years in prison.

Aggravated Indecent Assault

Aggravated indecent assault is sexual contact without consent by forcible compulsion or threat of forcible compulsion, while the victim could be characterized as any of the following:

  • Unconscious
  • Impaired
  • Mentally disabled
  • Younger than 13 
  • Younger than 16 and four or more years younger than the perpetrator and not married to the perpetrator 

Forcible compulsion is the use of any type of force to compel sexual contact, including physical, intellectual, moral, emotional, or psychological force, whether it is expressed or implied.

Aggravated indecent assault is a first-degree felony carrying a sentence of up to 20 years if the victim was 13 or younger. If the victim was 16 or younger and four or more years younger than the perpetrator, it is a second-degree felony carrying a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.

Indecent Contact

Indecent contact is defined as touching a child’s intimate parts for sexual purposes. Indecent contact with a child under 13 is usually a first-degree misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of five years of imprisonment for a first offense. Second and subsequent offenses are third-degree felonies with a penalty of up to seven years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000. 

If the child is older than 13 but younger than 16, and the perpetrator was more than four years older, the crime is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. This crime is known as indecent assault if the perpetrator intentionally caused the child to come into contact with semen, urine, or feces in pursuit of sexual gratification.

What Is Section 6312 in Pennsylvania?

Title 18 § 6312 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, also known as the Sexual Abuse of Children Law, prohibits all activities related to child pornography. Child pornography is defined as any of the following materials that depict one or more children under the age of 18 in a real or simulated sexual act:

  • Books
  • Magazines
  • Pamphlets
  • Slides
  • Photographs
  • Films
  • Videotapes
  • Computer depictions
  • Any other materials

Section 6312 prohibits photographing, filming, or depicting on a computer any sexual acts with a minor under the age of 18. It also prohibits obtaining or making a child available to produce pornographic materials. 

In addition, disseminating pornographic materials depicting sexual acts with children is prohibited, including selling, delivering, transferring, displaying, or exhibiting the materials for commercial purposes.

Violations of this act are a felony in the third degree for first-time offenders and are punishable by up to seven years of imprisonment. If the child is under 10 or prepubescent, a violation of Section 6312 constitutes a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

A second or subsequent offense is a second-degree felony, which is upgraded to a first-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison if the victim is under 10 or prepubescent. 

It is not a defense for a defendant to be ignorant of the victim’s age, whether it was misrepresented by the victim or based on the defendant’s belief.

Filing a Civil Sexual Abuse Lawsuit

Pennsylvania law also allows a sexual abuse survivor to file a civil lawsuit against a perpetrator and any person or institution that failed to prevent the abuse. This may include the following:

You have the right to sue the perpetrator, the organization or business, and the individuals who failed to fulfill their responsibilities to prevent sexual abuse. This may also include individuals who engaged in intentional concealment activities.

The Child Victims Act in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania law limits how long child abuse victims have to file a civil lawsuit. This is known as a statute of limitations. In 2019, the General Assembly passed a law increasing the statute of limitations to give sexual abuse survivors 37 years to file a claim after turning 18. This means you have until the age of 55 to file a lawsuit.

The law also removes a statute of limitations on criminal prosecution for child sex abuse, which means abusers may face criminal prosecution no matter how much time has passed since the abuse.

Before the 2019 law, the civil statute of limitations required child victims to file a case within 12 years of turning 18, or by age 30. However, the 2019 law was not retroactive, so survivors who had already turned 30 by 2019 are time-barred from filing lawsuits. 

The Pennsylvania legislature has made multiple attempts to pass legislation giving time-barred survivors a two-year window, known as a lookback window, to file a case. This legislation is known as the Child Victims Act. 

In 2021, the state legislature approved it, and the matter should have come before the voters. Unfortunately, a clerical error by the Wolf Administration prevented it from making it onto the ballot. 

The legislation is still pending in the state legislature. Our law firm supports this legislation, and we are hopeful it will ultimately pass.

What Types of Compensation Can I Recover?

The compensation you can recover in a Pennsylvania sexual abuse case may include the following:

  • Economic damages – Compensation for monetary losses
  • Non-economic damages – Compensation for your pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages – Non-compensatory damages awarded to punish a defendant whose conduct was intentional and displayed evil intent

The amount of compensation you recover will vary based on the individual facts of your case, such as the following:

  • The severity of the abuse you suffered
  • The length of time the abuse occurred
  • Your age at the time of the abuse
  • The impacts the abuse has had on your quality of life
  • The impacts the abuse has had on your earning capacity
  • The financial costs stemming from the abuse
  • The collectible assets of the responsible parties

We have won awards from tens of thousands to millions on behalf of our injured clients, and we never stop fighting until you get the compensation you deserve.

When you schedule a free consultation with one of our sexual abuse lawyers, we provide a free case review and can estimate the value of your specific case.

Cordisco & Saile Helps Sexual Abuse Survivors Throughout Pennsylvania

If you or your child has experienced sexual abuse, you deserve justice. Our devoted and caring attorneys can provide kind support and fearless advocacy to ensure you get the compensation you need and deserve. Don’t let those who allowed you or your child to experience harm get away with it. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.

We serve all of Pennsylvania with offices in the following locations:

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