Sex abuse survivors call for reform of Pa. laws

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Dozens of sex abuse survivors rallied in the state Capitol to urge lawmakers to reform Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations.

Gut-wrenching stories were shared at the bottom of the Rotunda steps Monday morning as survivors relived the most traumatic and painful experience of their lives with strangers.

“It doesn’t go away,” one woman said. “It stays fresh in our minds and our hearts.”

A woman whose brother was murdered by his significant other discussed the traumatizing ordeal of seeking justice in a fragile system.

“We could not take a chance she could walk free and not pay for this horrible crime,” she said.

Dozens filled the Rotunda with signs urging lawmakers to grant certain rights to survivors.

“Serving victims, building trust, and restoring hope,” said Jennifer Storm, the state’s Victim Advocate.

Storm lead a social media charge to #StormTheCapitol” and encourage lawmakers to pass House Bill 1947, along with a dozen amendments that would reform or possibly eliminate Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations on sex crimes.

“Right now, if you’re a victim of sexual violence, you literally need a calendar and a calculator to determine whether or not you can seek justice,” Storm said.

State law prohibits victims of child sex abuse from seeking criminal action after age 50 and civil action after age 30.

State Rep. Mark Rozzi (D-Berks) is behind an amendment that would allow victims to seek justice after the statute of limitations has expired.

“Today is the day we get our voice back,” Rozzi said.

He was excited that a bill would reach the House floor for the first time in 13 years. Similar measures have been defeated a dozen times since 2006.

Rozzi, a survivor of clergy sex abuse, wanted survivors to have the opportunity to seek justice.

“Archaic statutes of limitation protected this man of the cloth, who we estimate sexually abused upwards of 200 children,” he said.

After the rally, workshops were held with various agencies including Pennsylvania State Police. Storm said more than 2,500 victims signed up for smartphone notifications on the whereabouts and judicial process of their abusers.

Josh Shapiro, A Montgomery County commissioner and candidate for attorney general, said he stood by the victims and vowed to help protect them at every turn.

“We will not forget the victims, that they are top of our minds,” Shapiro said. “They will never be forgotten. Never.”

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