‘I didn’t do anything then, but I can do something now,’ Pa. lawmaker trying to change child sex abuse laws

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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Pennsylvania Rep. Mark Rozzi spoke out about the child sex abuse scandal in Altoona-Johnstown.

Two bishops from that diocese are accused of allowing priests to sexually abuse hundreds of children.

For Rozzi, it's personal.

"At first I was definitely appalled, outraged, here we go again," he said.

He was abused sexually by a priest when he was a child and had friends who were sexually abused at a young age.

"I had three childhood friends who have committed suicide, the recent one just on Good Friday of this past year. So when people say, 'Is it personal?', you better believe it is," he said.

He said victims of sexual abuse sometimes blame themselves, and it's difficult for them to face their abuser.

"I didn't do anything then, but I can do something now. I can stand up for the voiceless and give all these victims out there that are struggling with alcohol, drugs, that have committed suicide, I can be their voice here in the Capitol."

Rozzi is using that voice to call for change, specifically in the statute of limitations.

"Our main thing is we want to eliminate the criminal and civil statute of limitations and it is a must that we have a two-year window to give victims an opportunity to go in court and have their voices heard," he said.

Some members of the judiciary committee claim the proposal is unconstitutional.

Rozzi said, "Show me a statute that says it's unconstitutional because it's been upheld in all these other states. OK, and they can't."

But he said it's time for action, and that time is now.

"Yes, it's a difficult topic. Nobody wants to talk about sex abuse. But guess what? As an elected representative, you better get your nose in the book and find out exactly what is going on in our state to our children, and then you need to do something about it. That's why you're elected," Rozzi said.

Among those who question the proposal is House Judiciary Chairman Ron Marsico. His office said they will be releasing a statement on the subject early next week.