Law­maker abused as child says it’s up to Pa. Se­nate to act on statute of lim­i­ta­tions

The Morning Call - - LOCAL NEWS - By Ford Turner

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

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