Pennsylvania News

Sex assault survivors urge passage of Pa. bill to end time limits

Advocates filled the Capitol to urge lawmakers to pass House Bill 612

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) - A bill in the House would lift time limits for when victims of sex abuse can sue their alleged abusers.

Tuesday, victims and advocates filled the Capitol to urge lawmakers to pass the bill.

"You learn to live with it. It's like a haunting," said Teresa Lancaster, a survivor and advocate. 

Lancaster graduated from Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore in the 1970s. Not a day has gone by since that she doesn't think about the sexual abuse that she and her classmates went through.

It's a story she's now telling in the Netflix documentary, "The Keepers."

"I filed suit back in '94 with another abuse survivor, and the case was thrown out on the statute of limitations technicality," she said. 

Lancaster's window to file suit had expired -- a dead end she says many survivors run into.

"It really blocks justice for a lot of people," she said. 

Berks County Representative Mark Rozzi said Pennsylvania's laws put kids in the middle. 

"We want to put Pennsylvania in the best position possible to protect children," he said. 

That's why dozens of victims and advocates filled the State Capitol on Tuesday -- to urge lawmakers to pass House Bill 612 to remove that time limit.

"This should be a bipartisan, something that should have been done back in 2003 when the first grand jury came out in Philadelphia," Rozzi said. 

Representative Rozzi is the bill's main sponsor. He himself is a survivor.

"It's not getting easier as you get older. In fact, it gets worse," he said. "The mental and physical problems that we suffer do not go away."

This month, the Attorney General's Office will be releasing a report of a grand jury investigation into allegations of sexual abuse and cover-ups by priests in six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania.

Representative Rozzi is calling on all Roman Catholic bishops to get behind his bill.

As for Lancaster, she just hopes it gives victims some piece of mind.

"Don't think you're alone. Don't think it's your fault, because it's not," she said. 

House Bill 612 is currently in the House Judiciary Committee.


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