State Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, held a rally and news conference at the state Capitol today to demonstrate public support of efforts to get child sex abuse statute of limitations bills moved to the full House for a vote.
“First it was Boston, then Philadelphia and Los Angeles, and the pattern repeats itself in Altoona-Johnstown. 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.”
At the rally, Rozzi was accompanied by Attorney General Kathleen Kane, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, public officials, sexual abuse survivors and advocacy organizations, including the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.
“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?”
“As a society, we have a moral obligation to do more to protect children from predators,” DePasquale said. “We must do everything possible to help those children who have been traumatized by abuse. One of the things we can do – make that must do – is eliminate the abysmal civil and criminal statutes of limitation on childhood sexual abuse.”
Rep. Tom Murt, R-Montgomery/Phila., spoke about H.B. 951, which 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.”
Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Allegheny, spoke about H.B. 655, which would eliminate the statute of limitations for criminal and civil cases of child sex abuse.
“I am honored to be able to take over as prime sponsor for House Bill 655 for former Representative Louise Bishop, who was a champion of children and survivor of child sex abuse,” Gainey said. “I strongly support and deeply believe in eliminating statutes of limitations for child sex abuse. Not just the criminal but the civil, too. Why would one be shorter than the other? We need to protect kids and not let predators to go unaccountable for their crimes.”
Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria, whose district is the epicenter of the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, and who graduated from Bishop McCort High School in 1994, said it’s time to change a law that has for too long sided with alleged perpetrators of child sexual abuse.
“We need to put the victims of these heinous acts first,” said Burns. “I am fully on board with changing the statute of limitations, so that anyone who even thinks about sexually abusing a young boy or girl knows ahead of time that they’ll never be able to run out the clock.”
“It’s a fact that most survivors of child sexual abuse wait years to talk about what was done to them,” said Delilah Rumburg, CEO of PCAR. “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. 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. It is time for Pennsylvania to change our laws, now.”
Marci Hamilton, the nationally recognized constitutional law expert and author on statute of limitation reform, discussed the success of the revival of statutes of limitation in other states and the reasons why this is of ultimate importance for survivors and society at large.