Lawmaker abused as child says it’s up to Pa. Senate to act on statute of limitations
HARRISBURG – Daylong testimony given Wednesday to a Pennsylvania Senate committee ended with emotional, tear-filled pleas from victims of sexual abuse and advocates seeking to abolish the statute of limitations on sexual assault crimes.
State Rep. Mark Rozzi, a victim of childhood sexual abuse himself, said the hearing moved the cause forward.
“I really think the hearing went well,” said Rozzi, a Berks County Democrat who has pushed for years to extend the period of time for civil and criminal penalties against those found guilty of sex crimes against children. “I don’t know what else we can do to get this legislation across the finish line.”
Rozzi’s bill, one of several before the Senate committee, would among other things remove time limitations on prosecuting the rape of a child. The bill was approved in the House earlier this year.
Other bills being considered by lawmakers include proposals to change laws pertaining to sex crimes committed against adults.
“Children, to me, are a special class of victims,” Rozzi said. “And all these grand jury reports that have come out are about child sexual assault, not adults.”
A man, now 51, told of how he was abused repeatedly when he was in sixth and seventh grade and was an altar boy in the Roman Catholic Church. A woman, crying, told members of the Judiciary Committee how she was abused repeatedly by a man and a woman starting at age 14.
Jennifer Storm, Victim Witness Advocate for Pennsylvania, said some of the victims who spoke Wednesday had sought the chance for years.
“A fundamental part of a victim’s healing is being heard,” Storm said.
Thursday morning, Mary McHale of Berks County, now 47, reflected on the testimony she gave Wednesday to the committee. In it, she described the sex abuse she suffered in a church rectory as a child and its personal aftermath.
Referring to the senators, McHale said, “Coming out of that room and talking to all the survivors and victims, I think everyone felt happy with how they responded.”
Diana Vojtasek, another Berks County resident, did not testify Wednesday but said she was abused by the same man who abused McHale, her friend.
Her voice breaking with emotion during a Thursday phone interview, Vojtasek said it was “heartbreaking to sit through my friend’s testimony.”
Their experiences, she said, will never be erased by a law being passed, but that action would help provide justice and protection for future generations.
Rozzi said that ultimately, it will be up to the Senate committee, chaired by Republican Sen. Lisa Baker, to take action.
Morning Call reporter Ford Turner can be reached at 717-783-7305 or fturner @mcall.com