State Rep. Mark Rozzi said he was talking to a group after a taxpayer rally in Harrisburg last month when someone asked him what else he was up to.
He told them about legislation he is co-sponsoring to raise the statute of limitations on the filing of civil suits in cases of child sexual abuse.
Afterward, one woman stayed behind and began crying.
Rozzi recalled her words: “Mark, I’m 75 years old. I was raped and abused by my uncle when I was 15. It was 60 years ago, and I have never forgotten one thing. I never told anybody.”
“We cannot forget,” said Rozzi, who alleges he was abused by a priest when he was 13. “It’s in your mind every single day.”
The legislation would allow adult victims of child sexual abuse to file civil suits against their abusers or the institutions that employed the abusers until the victims are age 50. The current age is 30. The legislation also would open a two-year window for victims to re-file cases thrown out of court because the statute of limitations had expired.
It wouldn’t be retroactive; victims 51 or older would still be unable to file suits.
Still, some sort of change is needed because most victims don’t come forward until later in life, Rozzi said.
Several states have increased their limits. Others are debating increases.
Pennsylvania’s proposal has been stalled in the House Judiciary Committee since it was introduced in January. Chairman Ron Marisco, a Dauphin County Republican, has said he won’t allow a vote because the proposed legislation is unconstitutional.
Apparently, Delaware lawmakers had no such concerns. They eliminated the statute of limitations, and victims there have won millions of dollars from the Catholic institutions that employed their abusers.
But this is not just about abuse by priests, said Rozzi, a Muhlenberg Township Democrat. Teachers, coaches and others use positions of trust to abuse children, he said.
“This is about justice denied, and we will not stop until we can get this done,” he said.