CHILD USA [Philadelphia PA]
January 29, 2023
By Liz Goldman
Liz Goldman, M.D., is a board-certified psychiatrist specializing in women’s mental health care and currently serves as a Clinical Associate faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Goldman’s story has been told in the film Silent No More. This blog was originally shared with Marci Hamilton, CEO and Founder of CHILD USA, in response to the horrendous politicking that PA residents have endured for nearly two decades of dodge and delay tactics by legislators to avoid Statute of Limitation Reform.
I signed up to speak at Rep. Rozzi’s “listening tour” event on 1/27/23 as a public commenter. Unfortunately, I wasn’t selected and didn’t get that opportunity.
I stayed publicly silent for 32 years after being sexually abused as a child. Then, I shared my story with Philadelphia Magazine in 2018, detailing my life at ages 12-14 when I was groomed and then repeatedly sexually abused by a teacher at my middle school.
I wanted to share with Rep. Rozzi and the audience present that evening that the location where his 1/27/23 event took place was in the Lower Merion School District (LMSD) – the district where my abuse occurred. The LMSD learned of my abuse in 1986 when it happened, and I told its administration again in 1988, 1999, and twice in 2005. It continued to employ my abuser while knowing of his pedophilia for 19 years until I provided evidence of the abuse (which I had done before) and, in 2005, revealed the LMSD’s neglect in doing anything about it to multiple public officials in the district. My predator then immediately retired. Today, 18 years after that, and 37 years after the abuse ended, he continues to collect his PA teacher’s pension, funded by PA taxpayers.
The statute of limitations (SOL) expired for me when I was 16, just 2 years after the abuse ended. The absurdity of that speaks for itself. The PA legislature has yet to create window legislation to allow survivors of childhood sexual abuse to take legal recourse. Not only am I continually legally silenced because of this, but also my perpetrator continues to live freely. And so he does, right here in PA. Does anyone want a child sexual abuser living freely, unnamed as a pedophile in their neighborhood? A pedophile who can roam freely around kids?
I want Rep. Rozzi and each of the PA House Representatives and the PA Senators to know that they are responsible for perpetuating the legal silencing of PA’s victims and the crimes committed against them. The PA legislature continues to prevent a school district like the LMSD from being held accountable for its crimes. As it now stands, PA lawmakers actively allow perpetrators to have more rights than their victims.
We need window legislation. We need accountability. The PA legislature needs to stop prioritizing powerful institutions and insurance lobbyists and instead, focus on the safety of PA children. If we can’t keep our kids safe, then what are our priorities? Is PA okay telling its children that “these things happen” as the LMSD told me? Is there a conscience that informs the moral compass of our legislators? On what principles do legislators come to the rescue of institutional corruption? Do they care about the hundreds of girls the Lower Merion School District willfully exposed to my predator? Do they care about clergy abuse and its victims?
I’m tired of years of PA politics getting in the way of justice. Without window legislation, child predators remain protected and the institutions that knowingly jeopardize children are enabled to conceal these crimes and continue to harm children. Do I not matter? Do your children not matter? Do the reputations of these institutions matter more?
I was disappointed that I didn’t get to speak in front of Rep. Rozzi. More disappointing, though, is the state of our state. PA, you can do better. Drop the idea of a constitutional amendment. It’s an unnecessary delay tactic and look what the PA Senate did with it anyway – it bundled it with two other unrelated and largely unwanted amendments. Just pass a Window to Justice bill already. Stop playing games with survivors; choose children over predators and institutions. Legislators, take pride in your priorities and protect the children of PA – that is your duty and that’s what you were elected to do.