Sex Abuse Victims Rally for Statute of Limitations Reform
March 14, 2016
Victims of child sexual abuse and their advocates gathered beneath the Capitol dome in Harrisburg on Monday. Led by Pennsylvania Rep. Mark Rozzi, a Berks County Democrat who, himself, was abused as a child, they called on the full House of Representatives to take up a pair of bills that would reform child sex abuse statute of limitations. Rozzi cited a pattern of child sex abuse cases continuing to be revealed across the country, the most recent one being in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, where a grand jury found that hundreds of children were sexually abused for at least 40 years. The case can not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations expired.
"The only way this ends is if we make it loud and clear to child rapists and those who harbor them, that they can no longer hide," Rozzi said. "To my colleagues in this building, I beg you to stand with me and pass our bills. Let's get this done." Among those joining Rozzi at the rally were Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who released the grand jury report on Johnstown-Altoona two weeks ago. "Sexually abusing a child essentially kills all of the childhood foundations necessary to grow into a happy adult with trust, feeling loved, security and respect for authority figures," Kane said. "This is a life sentence for the child. If an abuser is allowed to destroy the childhood of a boy or girl, why then do we allow the criminal to escape a lifetime of accountability for his crimes?" One of the bills, sponsored by Rep. Ed Gainey, an Allegheny County Democrat, would eliminate the statute of limitations for criminal and civil cases of child sex abuse. "I strongly support and deeply believe in eliminating statutes of limitations for child sex abuse. Not just the criminal but the civil, too," Gainey said. "Why would one be shorter than the other? We need to protect kids and not let predators to go unaccountable for their crimes." The other bill, introduced by Rep. Tom Murt, a Republican who represents Montgomery and Philadelphia counties, would create a two-year revival window for past victims of child sex abuse to file civil suits. "We are not opening a Pandora's box here. My bill simply allows past victims to exercise the right they always had, but could not," Murt said. "Remember, no lawsuit will ever go forward without evidence." Survivor advocates said statute of limitations reform is important, citing the fact that most victims wait years to talk about what was done for them. "We now have laws on the books that block adult survivors from seeking justice and prevent the identification and prosecution of people who perpetrate sexual violence," said Delilah Rumburg, CEO of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. "Instead, our laws allow offenders to go unchecked and give institutions the ability to cover up crimes. This keeps the public – our children – at risk."