Cry for reform for all child sex abuse victims
By Brandie Kessler
York Daily Record
March 15, 2016
|Kristen Pfautz Woolley, founder of Turning Point Women's Counseling and Advocacy Center in York, attended a rally at the state Capitol Monday to demonstrate public support of efforts to get a child sex abuse statute of limitations bills moved to the full House for a vote.|
Photo by Paul Kuehnel
|Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, held a rally and news conference at the state Capitol to demonstrate public support of efforts to get the child sex abuse statute of limitations bills moved to the full House for a vote.|
Photo by Paul Kuehnel
State Rep. Mark Rozzi stood inside the capitol rotunda Monday and pressured lawmakers, specifically State Rep. Ronald Marsico, to reform the state's statute of limitations on child sexual abuse.
For years, proposed legislation to change the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania, has not made it out of the house judiciary committee, which Marsico, R-Dauphin, chairs. Rozzi said that needs to change, and the proposed legislation needs to be voted on.
"We will jam up the (judiciary) committee, we will stop the committee from functioning if we have to," Rozzi, D-Berks, told a crowd of dozens, including many who came specifically for the reform rally. "We're just asking, basically, Chairman Ron Marsico to do his job, and that's to pass that bill out (of) committee to protect the victims, the children of this commonwealth."
Among the people standing behind Rozzi was Kristen Pfautz Woolley, founder of Turning Point Women's Counseling and Advocacy Center in York. She is a survivor of child sexual abuse.
Although the conversation over the statute of limitations has gained momentum since a recent grand jury report of the Altoona-Johnstown diocese uncovered the sexual abuse of hundreds of children by priests over four decades, the problem is not limited to the Catholic church, Woolley said.
Woolley, who is a registered nurse and a social worker, said 95 percent of all children who are sexually abused know their perpetrator. Of that, she said, just 5 percent are victims of clergy abuse.
Woolley said she and other survivors of child sexual abuse are the ones paying the price for Marsico's failure to move proposed legislation forward.
"Why is this bill not passing?" Woolley said. "This is not a Catholic church issue. This is a public issue."
Marsico, through his chief of staff, declined to comment Monday. In the past, he has expressed support for abolishing the statute of limitations on child sex crimes, but has opposed a two-year window for victims for whom the statute of limitations has expired to file civil charges. Marsico has called such a window "unconstitutional."
At Monday's rally, lawmakers and others who spoke supported both removing the civil and criminal statutes of limitations and allowing the two-year window for civil cases. The window would allow all people for whom the statute of limitations expired before new legislation passed to file a civil claim against their abuser.
Several of those who spoke at the rally, including Auditor General Eugene DePasquale and Marci Hamilton, an expert on constitutional law, said special interests have taken priority over the well being of children.
Hamilton argued that a civil window is not unconstitutional. She said every argument raised against the window's constitutionality is false.
DePasquale agreed, saying "This is not about whether (proposed legislation) legally can happen," it's about Harrisburg's willingness to stand up to special interests.
Hamilton said she has been part of the same conversation about reform in Pennsylvania in the past, but this time is different, she said, referencing the dozens of people listening to the rally. "This is a movement," Hamilton said.