Rozzi hails progress toward justice for child sexual abuse victims

House vote moves two-year window for civil lawsuits closer to reality

HARRISBURG, Jan. 27 – As the legislature’s foremost advocate for justice on child sexual abuse, state Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, hailed today’s House passage of legislation that moves a two-year window for childhood sexual assault victims to file civil lawsuits closer to reality.

House Bill 14, offered by state Rep. Jim Gregory, R-Blair, overwhelmingly passed the House. The measure would create a two-year window during which civil lawsuits alleging childhood sexual abuse may be filed in court – notwithstanding any statute of limitations that had prevented such filings.

This measure had been linked with Rozzi’s H.B. 962 during last session.

Rozzi, who is a survivor of childhood abuse inflicted by a member of the Catholic clergy, pushed for the legislation, which was signed into law in November 2019 and reformed Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations for sexual abuse:

  • It abolished Pennsylvania’s criminal statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse.
  • It extended the timeline victims have to file civil action against their abusers.
  • It extended civil statute of limitations for victims age 18-24 until the age of 30.
  • It extended the criminal statute of limitations for criminal proceedings for victims age 18-24 for 20 years.

Unfortunately, Rozzi’s bill is needed now more than ever, since the pandemic has forced more children to remain at home, where they could potentially be the victims of abuse without as much oversight from social services. 

House Bill 14 came about when Gregory who, like Rozzi, is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, approached Rozzi to team up on a compromise that could become a constitutional amendment. The two men embraced the concept for a retroactive window, which had failed to pass the Senate repeatedly since 2006, following the release of a grand jury report that highlighted systemic abuse of children in the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Most recently, in 2018, Senate Republican leadership blocked a bill by claiming it would be unconstitutional.

“We know all too well the life-long challenges victims of childhood sexual abuse face.  Victims have waited long enough,” Rozzi said. “This opportunity is long overdue – and is sorely needed to finally allow childhood victims of sexual predators the chance to obtain closure and redress on their harrowing experiences.”

A constitutional amendment requires that identical legislation must pass each chamber of the General Assembly in two consecutive legislative sessions and then be presented to the voters for adoption. Wednesday’s vote marked the second consideration of the proposed constitutional amendment in the House, meaning today’s action moves the process closer to appearing on the ballot for approval.

House Bill 14 still needs to go to the Senate before it can be presented to voters for adoption to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

“It’s been a long game to pass muster in both chambers, but it’s well worth the fight,” Rozzi said. “What I feel should have taken months has now taken years, but it’s important to keep moving forward, even if every step of the way is hard-fought and fraught with obstacles.”