Berks Lawmaker Rallies for Change in Sexual Abuse Cases
By Katiera Winfrey
June 12, 2018
A Pennsylvania lawmaker from Berks County plans to renew his push to abolish the state's statute of limitations in sex abuse cases after the publication of a grand jury report on allegations of child sexual abuse within six Roman Catholic dioceses around the state.
Rep. Mark Rozzi, himself a victim of childhood sex abuse in the Allentown diocese, said Tuesday he's prepared to seek a vote in the state House of Representatives on legislation that carries provisions sought by victims.
Rozzi's efforts come ahead of the release of a grand jury report into sex abuse in the Catholic dioceses.
State representatives and survivors of abuse are among those who packed the Capitol rotunda Tuesday. They are trying to draw more support for House Bill 612. If passed, it would eliminate the cap on the amount of time child sex crimes victims have to come forward.
The hand written signs send a message about child sex assault and the voices of child sexual assault survivors Brian Rule and Taylor Ecker ring clear.
"They call us victims but I look at us as survivors," said Taylor Ecker.
"It's here and it's time the pedophiles should be worried," said Brian Rule.
Ecker and Rule rallied with others in support of Rozzi's bill, which would eliminate the statute of limitations on child sex crimes.
The rally took aim at the Catholic church, partly because of looming grand jury investigation into sex abuse in Catholic dioceses, but Rozzi said his bill would impact all people accused of child sex crimes.
"Most of the sexual abuse happens in the household, but the Catholic church has taken the cake for the cover-up, which is so much worse than the crime," he said.
Teresa Lancaster attended the rally. Her story of sexual abuse was highlighted in a Netflix documentary surrounding sexual assault allegations against the Catholic church in the 1960s. Lancaster's case was thrown out due to the statute of limitations expiring.
"The law, as it is, blocks justice, for many survivors deserve their day in court, their day to be heard," Lancaster said. "This will protect others. We need change. We need transparency, and I want to bishops held accountable."
Rozzi said he hopes the grand jury's findings, expected to be released later this month, will sway legislators to vote in favor of his bill.
"We have to get this done to protect our children in the state," he said.
The House bill approval would only eliminate the statute of limitations for child victims. The current statute would stand for adults who come forward.