Rozzi shines a Spotlight on statutes of limitation reform panel

HARRISBURG, May 20 – State Rep. Mark Rozzi hosted a roundtable discussion this week with Phil Saviano, the real-life “Spotlight” whistleblower, to highlight the need for statutes of limitation reform efforts in Pennsylvania.

“Speaking as a victim, Phil Saviano deserves credit for the countless hours of hard work and dedication to uncovering the sexual abuse occurring in Boston,” Rozzi said. “Spotlight didn’t make this event possible, Phil Saviano did. I don’t know if we would be here today without his hard work because what happened in Boston happened everywhere across the country. It is a proud day for us, because for so long we have been shut out and silenced, but when someone breaks through that barrier it creates hope for all of us.” 

At the roundtable, Saviano, whose story was recently featured in the Academy Award-winning film “Spotlight”, spoke about how it took considerable time and effort to expose the systematic abuse and cover-ups that were occurring in the Archdiocese of Boston and beyond.

“At some point I realized the man that assaulted me as a kid had a very long career of molesting children in several parts of the country. I had a hard time grappling with that because I had just assumed he would be caught and thrown out of the priesthood and yet the exact opposite happened,” Saviano said. “Over the next couple of years, I learned there were at least seven bishops in four states that knew this priest was a child molester. Not only had he been caught over and over again, but he had been sent on four different occasions to four different church-run treatment centers but always brought back in to parish assignments and given more opportunities to assault children.”

George Foster, an Altoona businessman who has been credited with exposing the decades-long cover-up that occurred at the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, said: “I got involved because I realized something wrong was going on and children were being abused. It was actually going on within my church institution.

“I thought that these people would be shocked into stopping. I though the bishops would wake up and say ‘this is wrong.’ But that still hasn’t happened.”

Patty Dailey Lewis, executive director of the Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children, said: “We need to shine a bright light onto this problem and until there is the ability to look at the books and records and everything these defendants have we will not have the full story.

“We will never stop it by pretending it is all better now because we have better laws. We have to hold people accountable. We have to give victims a voice because the healing only begins when you can take your power back.”

Marci Hamilton, constitutional law expert and statutes of limitation reform advocate, said: “There are many reasons why survivors avoid telling people about their abuse. You can’t fit any one survivor into a box. This abuse is found in every arena, and every survivor is distinctive but every survivor has some markers that are similar to others.

“Right now there is a movement for improving statutes of limitation globally, from Japan to Scotland to Australia. When you look at where Pennsylvania is in terms of statutes of limitation, it is much too short and most survivors are not able to make it.” 

Rozzi, who has long been an advocate for statutes of limitation reform in the House, said he hopes the discussion will spur Senate action on the recently passed H.B. 1947, which would eliminate the criminal statutes of limitation for child sex abuse, extend the civil statutes of limitation until the victim reaches age 50 and allow adult victims of child sex abuse a permanent extension to file civil claims up to age 50.