HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — On Wednesday afternoon, the Pa. House of Representatives voted to pass legislation that extended the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse victims to submit a claim in civil court.
Authored by Rep. Jim Gregory (R-Blair County) and supported by Rep. Mark Rozzi (D-Berks County), the bill provides a two-year window for victims to file a claim, “if the statute of limitations has already expired for that victim.”
“For so many years before me, legislators did nothing,” Rep. Rozzi said.
Until now, Rozzi says his abuser was connected to more than 200 victims at 12 different parishes.
“We were just something they could use and throw out because they didn’t have to worry about the statute of limitations,” Rozzi said.
The bill would give all child sex abuse survivors — not just clergy — to get their day in civil court. Because its constitutionality was questioned in previous sessions, lawmakers changed strategy, the bill’s sponsor explains.
“My solution was, ‘okay, let’s address the constitutionality and take that out of it by amending the constitution with the amendment,'” Rep. Gregory said.
That means voters will decide during the primaries in May — but law requires three months of advertising first.
“Which means February 18 would be our deadline, which is also one of the reasons why we wanted to move on this quickly,” Rep. Gregory said.
Moving quickly, because others did not.
“The victims had no chance. Think about your children. Think about putting them into a school not knowing a predator is there,” Rep. Rozzi said.
Although, Rozzi acknowledges the Catholic church has taken care of 90% of its liabilities, but says that’s not enough.
“It’s roughly about $148,000 per victim. Pennies on the dollar that these victims deserved,” Rep. Rozzi said.
Gregory says the Catholic church continues to quietly work against the bill, but he has faith in his work.
“It was meant to be by a vote of 187-15. So, that is what it tells me that nothing happens in God’s world by mistake,” Rep. Gregory said.
In 2020, Gregory partnered with Rozzi to create legislation that would raise the age in which childhood sexual abuse victims could file a suit, extending the age limit from 30 to 55 years old.