One year since grand jury report, advocates push for change

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – One year since the grand jury report detailing clergy sex abuse in the Harrisburg Diocese, advocates and survivors continue to push for change.

“Many of them are survivors of church abuse, but not solely. This is really an issue that is cross-cutting for many people who were sexually abused as children,” said Kristen Houser, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.

Many people can’t take legal action because the law says too much time has passed.

“We’re not just looking back at a year of activism,” Houser said. “We’re looking back at a decade of trying to make our state’s laws get up to speed and be where they should be.”

Houser says rape crisis centers across the commonwealth are seeing more survivors coming forward as adults.

“Being able to talk about this issue and the pervasiveness that was represented in that report has given people I think some reassurance,” Houser said.

Some survivors have received money from the catholic diocese’s victim’s compensation fund.

“But there are others for whom being made whole means changing the institution, changing our state laws, to make it more fair and equitable moving forward,” Houser said.

 20 attorneys general across the country have opened similar investigations and many surrounding states have changed their laws.

“It’s been bittersweet to see that the pain and suffering that happened here in Pennsylvania has inspired other states to do the right thing, but that we haven’t seen that come to rest here at home yet,” Houser said.

Houser hopes lawmakers will realize victims of child sex abuse don’t come forward right away and that changes in the statute of limitations are needed.

“While I am inspired by the brave victims who have found the strength to share their stories, I am disappointed that one year later, the reforms outlined by the 23 Pennsylvanians on the Grand Jury have not been made law in Pennsylvania,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “These reforms deserve a vote in the PA Senate.” 

Over the last year, the attorney general’s clergy abuse hotline has received 1,886 calls. Around 90% of them were regarding clergy abuse.

The hotline number is 1-888-538-8541. You can find support services across the state at rape crisis centers.

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