Rep. Rozzi joins governor and attorney general in calling for state Senate to ensure justice for survivors of childhood sexual abuse

HARRISBURG, April 4 – Rep. Mark Rozzi has been fighting for almost a decade in the Pennsylvania legislature to deliver justice for survivors of childhood sexual abuse and again is calling on Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman and Majority Leader Kim Ward to allow one final vote to complete the work and send a bill to the governor’s desk. 

Rozzi was joined by Gov. Tom Wolf and Attorney General Josh Shapiro at the Capitol today to urge the Senate to consider H.B. 951, which would provide a retroactive two-year window for victims to file civil lawsuits while also partially lifting sovereign immunity protection for public institutions in sexual abuse cases. The bill would allow for civil cases where the injuries to the plaintiff were caused by actions or omissions by state or local agencies that constitute negligence.

"This is a necessary, important step to hold abusers – and the institutions that enabled them – accountable. It is the fastest path to justice for survivors," Wolf said. "The Senate should act right now to pass House Bill 951. If the Senate fails to act to support survivors, I will call a special session to bring the General Assembly back to Harrisburg and get this done because survivors deserve to have this issue resolved."

“It’s been a full year since this bill passed in the House of Representatives, and the Senate needs to act now,” Rozzi said. “Many senators are on record as supporters and the sole obstacle that remains is the majority party leadership’s refusal to allow a vote on the legislation.

“If the majority leader believes that the legislation is unconstitutional, then she should make that motion and allow the Senate to vote on it. To refuse to allow the Senate to even vote while victims are being denied justice and the compensation necessary to receive potentially life-saving mental health treatment is unconscionable,” Rozzi said.

While a strong bipartisan majority already approved a similar measure to change the Pennsylvania Constitution, that amendment is on hold due to a calamitous administrative failure to conduct necessary advertising of the question. It cannot take place until 2023 at the earliest.

Rozzi said enacting his bill this year would give victims an earlier time frame in which to seek compensation for the terrible crimes committed against them as children. Some survivors have used the term “soul murder” to describe the abuse they suffered. Rozzi often speaks about his personal experience as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and the impact it continues to have on his life.

Another speaker today was Marci Hamilton, chief executive officer of Child USA, an interdisciplinary think tank to prevent child abuse and neglect. Hamilton is a leader in the national effort to raise awareness of childhood sexual abuse and to change state laws to obtain justice for victims.

The need for legislation and a retroactive window for survivors gained widespread support following a 2005 grand jury investigation that detailed systemic abuse of children in the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia. It was emphasized again in 2018 when Attorney General Josh Shapiro released findings in a wide-ranging grand jury investigation of six other Catholic dioceses across the state.

Despite the testimony of hundreds of victims about abuse going back decades, Rozzi’s statutory relief legislation to provide justice has never been brought to a vote in the Senate. Those who wish to add their voices in calling for justice for victims of childhood sexual abuse may do so at Justice for Victims

“At the end of the day, you are either for victims, or you are part of the cover-up. It is time for the leaders in the Senate to step up and provide Pennsylvanians with the leadership that they deserve,” Rozzi said.

Soundbites and B-roll from the press conference may be downloaded and used by visiting: