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Pennsylvania lawmaker wants to eliminate child sex abuse statute of limitations

HARRISBURG, Pa. - One Pennsylvania lawmaker hopes the release of the clergy sex abuse Grand Jury report helps move forward statute of limitations legislation. Current law allows a child sex abuse victim until they are 30-years-old to file civil lawsuits, or 50-years-old to file criminal charges.

"It's time," said Representative Mark Rozzi, (D) Berks County. "Once this truth is out, now we turn our doors to the truth of justice."

Rozzi is hopeful the release of the Grand Jury's report into child sex abuse fuels a fire to get legislation passed that would eliminate criminal and civil statutes of limitations for child sex abuse all together. A victim of child sex abuse by a priest, Rozzi says, while statute of limitation laws have been updated over the years there is still more that needs to be done.

"For people who say that, you know we should have reported this sooner, we didn't know what the law was as a child," said Rozzi. "How did you expect us to know what the law was as we were being raped or abused? That's just ridiculous."

When lawmakers reconvene at the Pennsylvania Capitol in September, they'll only have 11 days to pass any new legislation. Rozzi has already introduced legislation dealing with statute of limitations, HB261. That bill has a two-year retroactive provision in statute of limitation legislation, allowing someone who has 'aged out' of the statute of limitations to still have a second chance to file suit against their alleged abuser.

Senator Joseph Scarnati also has a bill dealing with statute of limitations. Scarnati's gives child sex abuse victims until they are 50-years-old to file a civil lawsuit but his does not include that two-year retroactive provision. That provision is something some say raises constitutional concerns. Rozzi says they should pass the legislation with that provision and allow the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to decide if it is unconstitutional or not.

"It should be the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the black robes who make this decision not senators who are trying to pretend they are Supreme Court Justices," said Rozzi. "There's only one branch of government that can make this decision and it's the courts."

We reached out to Scarnati's office for an interview. They gave us a comment that his bill (SB261) is, "A constitutionally sound bill that takes a crucial step forward to help protect victims of child sex abuse."