Legislator urges survivors to testify before grand jury

| 9/20/16 | Bradie Kessler | York Daily Record|

State Rep. Mark Rozzi said he believes the high volume of reports of clergy abuse to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office spurred a statewide grand jury investigation into six Catholic dioceses, including Harrisburg.

“After the Altoona-Johnstown (diocese grand jury report) came out, and the Attorney General put out the hotline, and they took so many hundreds of calls, you weren’t just having Altoona-Johnstown victims calling, you were having victims from all over the state calling,” Rozzi said.

The Harrisburg diocese, which includes York County, acknowledged being subpoenaed, and Rozzi said five others — Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton — are also being investigated.

Rozzi, of Berks County, who said he was abused by a priest in 1984, said that when he knew a grand jury had been impaneled, he started posting things on social media, like Facebook, encouraging victims of clergy sexual abuse to get their story on the record. He said he didn’t post on social media that there was a grand jury investigation, rather that he would put survivors in touch with people who could help them.

That’s still one of his main messages, he said. “If there are victims out there, please do not hesitate to call my office or the Attorney General’s office,” Rozzi said. “Let’s get you set up to testify.”

Rozzi said his unique position as a survivor of clergy abuse and a legislator means he can sometimes talk with investigators about the grand jury investigation. He said he didn’t know when the investigation would be wrapping up, but he hoped it would continue as long as necessary to get as much information as possible.

Rozzi said the survivors of clergy abuse whom he knows who have testified before the grand jury feel gratified to have people listening to them. “This is so rewarding,” he said. “They want to be on the record, they want their abuse on the record.”

Tuesday, in Philadelphia, Rozzi will host a news conference to provide an update on statute of limitations reform efforts, and about recent news of the grand jury investigation. Several advocates, survivors of clergy sexual abuse and a Boston attorney who was depicted in the movie “Spotlight” are expected to attend the news conference.

Rozzi said he has his sights set on statute of limitations reform with a retroactive provision. Right now, someone who was sexually abused before age 18 has until age 30 to file a civil suit.

“The ultimate goal would be to pass a piece of legislation that not only protects our future children,” he said, “but gives our kids in the past some justice.”

How to report alleged abuse

To reach the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office to report alleged abuse, call 888-538-8541.

The number for Rep. Mark Rozzi’s Berks County office is 610-921-8921 and the number for his office in Harrisburg is 717-783-3290.

 

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