Rozzi thanks supporters for successful Statute of Limitations Reform Lobby Day

Legislators, advocates stand up for victims of child sexual abuse

HARRISBURG, April 15 – After a strong showing of support from legislators, advocates and victims, state Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, called today’s lobby day in support of reforms to statute of limitations reform in cases of child sexual abuse a success.

"Pennsylvania has the opportunity to be on the right side of change. We no longer want to be known nationally as the epicenter for child sexual abuse. I hope the Judiciary Committee chairmen will do the right thing and take up legislation that gives victims a voice," Rozzi said.

Rozzi said the reform package includes House Bill 661 and Senate Bill 582, introduced by Rozzi and state Sen. Rob Teplitz, D-Dauphin, in their respective chambers, which would raise the age at which an adult victim of child sex abuse could file a civil claim from 30 to 50 years old. Previously time-barred victims would be permitted to bring suit. Rep. Louise Williams Bishop’s House Bill 655 would eliminate the statute of limitations for criminal and civil cases of child sex abuse, and Rep. Tom Murt’s H.B. 951 calls for a two-year window for past victims to have the opportunity to file civil suits.

Rev. James Connell, an Archdiocese of Milwaukee parish priest, said there is no statute of limitations for removing a cleric who has sexually abused a minor from public ministry in the Catholic Church and believes bishops should accordingly support the statute of limitations reform in Pennsylvania.

Dr. Robert Hoatson, cofounder of Road to Recovery and former Catholic priest with the Archdiocese of Newark urged reform, saying, "I am the advocate for a victim of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky. That victim is awaiting justice and healing. Please give him both by passing courageous legislation that will help him get on the road to recovery."

State Reps. Mike O’Brien, D-Phila., and Tom Murt, R-Montgomery/Phila., also stood in support of their legislative reforms to the state’s statute of limitations laws.

O’Brien said, "Your eminences and excellences. We share a belief in the same God of mercy; but we also share a belief in the same God of justice. Your lack of mercy turns the eternal eye of justice towards you."

Murt shared his empathy for Bishop’s previous experience of coming forward as a survivor of sexual abuse, "Two years ago, this dignified and educated woman found the strength to reveal publicly that she was raped as a young girl by her step-father. It took her 66 years. I saw how Rep. Bishop’s admission ripped open painful memories, but it did something else. It encouraged other victims to tell their stories."

The following guests and advocates shared their thoughts and concerns regarding the current statute of limitations and their support for legislative reforms:

  • Matt Sandusky of the Peaceful Hearts Foundation said, "Perpetrators exist due to secrecy and statute of limitations laws, as they currently stand, reinforce this secrecy. To break the secrecy you have to give a victim their day in court."
  • Kristen Pfautz Woollery, founder of Turning Point Women’s Counseling & Advocacy Center in York, shared this sentiment, "When you finally are able to say I was sexually abused, report it and then learn you have no rights, criminally or civilly, you feel victimized all over again."
  • Marci Hamilton, leading church/state scholar, constitutional law expert and author of "Justice Denied: What America must do to protect its children," said, "Pennsylvania's civil statute of limitations shuts out thousands of victims. It is time for our elected representatives to choose Pennsylvania's children over self-interested organizations. The choice is simple: protect perpetrators or kids."