Lawmaker to clergy sex abuse victims: 'There's still time to tell your story'

By Sarah Cassi
Lehigh Valley Live
September 16, 2016

Pennsylvania Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, says he testified to a state grand jury investigating sex abuse claims in the Allentown and Harrisburg Catholic dioceses.
Photo by Ivey DeJesus

[with video]

Mark Rozzi's rape at the hands of Pennsylvania priest is not a secret anymore.

The state representative from Berks County has spoken publicly about his sex abuse as a 13-year-old boy, including sharing his story on the House floor in Harrisburg.

But Rozzi's retelling last month in Pittsburgh, as part of his testimony before a grand jury investigating claims of child sex abuse in the Allentown and Harrisburg dioceses, was still pivotal, he said.

"I never told my story in front of people who had a stake in moving it forward," Rozzi said of his Aug. 17 testimony, which he said lasted more than three hours. "It was so justifying and so rewarding."

Word came Thursday and Friday that the Allentown and Harrisburg dioceses are being investigated for child sex abuse claims by a state grand jury.

Rozzi said his battle against child sex abuse is sometimes isolating, and he's left feeling like he's on island.

But Rozzi said he and his office have been inundated with phone calls since Thursday night, including one from a sex abuse survivor ready to tell their story.

"We have a possibility to really put this puzzle together and to learn from it, to use the information to protect children in the future," Rozzi said.

It has also included threats.

"We take it all in stride," Rozzi said.

Rozzi is urging victims to contact his office or the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office to help with the investigation.

"We want you to be heard..we know there are so many more victims out there," Rozzi said. "There's still time to tell your story...I don't want to leave any stone unturned."

Rozzi said he has directed more than 24 victims of clergy sex abuse, some from Lehigh County, to the attorney general's office to help with the investigation.

Victims were still testifying before the grand jury as recently as last week, according to Rozzi.

"With that much information, this many victims, (the investigation) is going to take time," Rozzi said.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Allentown would not confirm the investigation or whether the diocese has received subpoenas.

Rozzi has spoken about how the suicide of a fellow sex abuse survivor in March 2009 spurred him to talk about his own abuse and rape by the Rev. Edward Graff.

Graff was arrested in 2002 in Texas on accusations he abused a 15-year-old boy. He died after breaking his hip in jail.

Rozzi campaigned on a platform to change Pennsylvania's laws, and his most recent focus has been on House Bill 1947.

The bill would eliminate the 30-year statute of limitation in prosecuting future child sex abuse cases.

The bill previously sought to allow victims to be able to retroactively sue their abusers. That language was removed from the bill that eventually passed the state Senate.

The bill is currently in the House Rules Committee, and Rozzi said he is gearing up for a renewed fight to return the language allowing retroactive lawsuits.

"Do you want to stand with pedophiles or do you want to stand with victims?" Rozzi asked of his colleagues. "At some point they've got to stand for what is right."



Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.