Survivors of childhood sexual abuse fill state Senate halls demanding statute of limitations reform

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Page by page, the Pennsylvania Catholic Dioceses' Grandy Jury report into sexual abuse is read in the halls of the Senate wing at the state capitol. Fighting through tears and a wave of emotion, it was tough for many people to be there, hear the report and remember their own abuse.

"I've been living with this for over 35 years," said Chris Ditunno, survivor of childhood sexual abuse. "I've been carrying it around with me as a survivor for over 35 years."

Alongside the survivors of childhood sexual abuse were people giving a voice to those who no longer have one.

"He didn't want to let anyone see how much he was hurting," said Cindy Leech, of her late song Corey who was abused by a Catholic priest as a child.

Corey lost his life about a year ago at 31-years-old after turning to drugs to deal with the pain of being abused by a priest as a child. His parents, Cindy and Bernie are now doing what they believe Corey would want them to do, help survivors of childhood sexual assault hold their abusers accountable.

Current law allows a child sex abuse victim until they are 30-years-old to file a civil lawsuit. The Leeches believe in adding a two-year retroactive window as recommended by the Grand Jury report allowing now-adult victims of childhood sexual abuse the opportunity to file civil claims.

"Every child should have that right cause when they're young they don't, they can't process it I don't think," said Cindy Leech. "You need to be older to be able to do that so they need the opportunity to be able to grow and become an adult, mature and then face their accuser."

The demonstration held Monday was organized by State Rep. Mark Rozzi, a victim of childhood sexual abuse himself. As the clock winds down on this legislative session, Rozzi is still hopeful he and Senate leaders can come to an agreement on an amendment that would add a retroactive window to SB261.

"When I take back whatever bill they send us from the Senate, I want to make sure it's the best product for victims out there," said Rozzi. "That's my main concern is whatever we do it has to be the best for them first."

State Senate leader Jake Corman's office issued this statement in response to working to add a retroactive window to SB261:

We continue to work toward taking action that will provide victims with justice and the opportunity for compensation.

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