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Amendment to Expand Time Limits on Childhood Sex Abuse Allegations Set to Clear Pennsylvania House

Pennsylvania moves closer to childhood sex abuse constitutional amendmentAn amendment to Pennsylvania’s Constitution that would extend time limits on when a survivor of childhood sexual abuse can come forward has once again been approved through a vote in the Commonwealth’s House of Representatives. Changes to Pennsylvania’s constitution must be approved through both chambers of its legislature during two consecutive legislative sessions before being presented to the people as a referendum vote. The first vote passed the House with a very strong 187-15 margin while the second picked up an additional vote in the affirmative to make the final tally 188-13.

The amendment would essentially do away with the statute of limitations on allegations of childhood sexual abuse for a two-year period and allow claims that would otherwise have been disallowed because of the amount of time that had elapsed since the alleged abuse took place. Proposals for the amendment began gaining traction after an onslaught of allegations emerged alleging abuse at the hands of Catholic priests and other clergy by victims now well into adulthood.

One of the amendment’s most vocal supporters has used stories of his own abuse to inform others of the struggle that survivors of childhood sexual abuse must endure before making the decision to come forward. State Representative Mark Rozzi has frequently spoken of the church that he trusted which would later abandon him, abuse that trust, and take advantage of him. “The bishops aided and abetted,” said Rozzi during a speech in support of the amendment. “The victims had no chance. Think about your children. Think about putting them into a school, not knowing a predator’s there. My priest was at 12 different parishes.”

Among those who voted against the amendment is Representative Greg Vitali who says that he voted in the negative out of concern for exposing public schools to litigation – a concern that was not shared by Rozzi.

“We want to make sure that all victims are on the same playing field here,” said Rozzi. “We’re going to hold you accountable, bottom line.” Representative Vitali does not appear to have clarified why he appears to feel that public schools should be sheltered from this legislation.