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Rally at State Capitol to bring justice for childhood sexual abuse victims

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- People marched, rallied, and gathered together for a news conference at the Capitol Monday, to bring justice for childhood sexual abuse victims. This, on the heels of the two-year grand jury investigation into widespread sexual abuse of children in six dioceses of the Catholic Church.

One of the first thingsĀ State Rep. Mark Rozzi, (D) Berks County, said when he took the podium is that today will be the beginning of the end to the fight for justice for all victims of childhood sexual abuse, and not just those who were abused by Catholic Church leaders.

Rozzi has been pushing for statute of limitations reform. Not only for others, but for himself.

"They don't stop abusing until they are caught, like Jerry Sandusky," Rozzi said. "Or they die, like my predator, Priest Father Edward R. Graft."

Rozzi discussed his amendment to S.B. 261, which is a statute of limitations reform bill. His amendment would create a two-year "window to justice" for now-adult victims of childhood sexual abuse who have aged out of their statute of limitations, allowing them to bring civil claims to court.

"What could possibly be more important to this Commonwealth, and to our people, than stopping the sexual abuse to our children, and to bring justice to our victims?" State Rep. Tom Murt, (R) 152nd District, said.

"I live in Florida and I was abused in Pennsylvania," Debbie Warren, said.

Warren was sexually abused by a science teacher at a Baptist school in Philadelphia in the early 80's, when she was 9-10 years old. In 2006 she wrote him a letter, and he responded admitting everything he did to her. But police couldn't do anything about it.

"My pedophile, that abused me, said I was not the first, and I was not the last and nobody knows. I can't even name his name. I can't do anything because of the statute of limitations," Warren said.

Currently the Statute of Limitations law in Pennsylvania allows victims of child sex abuse to come forward with criminal allegations until they are 50-years-old. The age cutoff for filing civil claims is 30.

"It's very simple in my mind," Pennsylvania Auditor General, Eugene Depasquale, said. "Are you on the side of the predators or are you on the side of the victims?"

"Why can't the church take the lead? Why can't they be the ones that are lobbying for victims instead of lobbying against them?" Warren said. "It's wrong. It's wrong. And I need justice. I need justice."

And that bill passed 171-23 to adopt the grand jury's recommendation. The bill will need a final vote in the House, which could happen as early as Tuesday before it goes to the state Senate.