HARRISBURG, June 5 – State Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, stood on Harrisburg’s Capitol steps today alongside Caleb Kauffman, Lancaster County victim and advocate; Chairwoman Rep. Maureen Madden, D-Monroe; Rep. La’Tasha D. Mayes, D-Allegheny; cast members of Peacock’s “Sins of the Amish;” and several other victims and advocates who together called for justice for childhood sexual abuse survivors.
Today’s rally focused particularly on secular communities, like the Amish, where the prominent role of religious rules, societal shunning and limited access to technology discourage victims from coming forward.
Speakers and rally-goers urged the state Senate to bring Rozzi’s House Bills 1 and 2 up for a vote. Both pieces of legislation would open a retroactive two-year window during which victims could file civil lawsuits against their abusers, regardless of when the abuse occurred. These bills passed the House earlier this session with bipartisan support.
“Statute of limitations bills, specifically on childhood sexual abuse, have been introduced in the state legislature for almost 19 years. Justice delayed is justice denied,” Rozzi said. “House Bill 1 and House Bill 2 have the power to spare future children from going through what I endured. If the Senate won’t vote on these bills, they run the risk of repeating history by further denying victims a chance to seek the justice they need and deserve.”
Kauffman represents the fifth wave of victims who have come to the state Capitol in hopes of changing state law to protect future generations of children. Kauffman said he was abused by family members who created and led an independent church within the community of plain faith he grew up in. He spearheaded today’s events alongside Rozzi.
“I have memories of being sexually abused by five different males,” Kauffman said. “How do we find healing from here? From here, we need to confront another hard truth, we have to acknowledge that as a society, we have failed to protect our children from sexual abuse. Our local, church and state leaders are either sexually abusing children or they are supporting a system that allows sexual perpetrators to live in peace and without consequence. As a society, we need to change our laws in order to create a space for healing.”
Madden, chairwoman of the House Democrats’ Northeast Delegation, spoke publicly about abuse she endured as a five-year-old for the first time.
“Healing cannot begin without justice,” Madden said. “Two decades of fighting for justice for survivors of childhood sexual abuse is far too long. That is why we stood today with one collective voice to call on our colleagues in the Senate to pass the statute of limitations legislation and open a window of justice for victims and survivors.”
Mayes is another fellow survivor in the legislature and spoke at today’s event.
“Thank you Rep. Rozzi for all that you have done for us to meet the moment of bringing justice to survivors and victims of childhood sexual abuse,” Mayes said. “No matter what religion we are or what faith community we belong to, we must root out childhood sexual abuse. We need that window for justice.”
Today’s event was sponsored by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and CHILD USA.
“These are the survivors coming out of the isolated, religious communities,” Marci Hamilton, president and CEO of CHILD USA, said. “They fight not only to be able to come forward when they’re ready, remember age 50 or 52 is the average age to come forward, but they are in systems that do not permit them to go to the authorities and do not permit them to blame others in the organization publicly. That is a hurdle that is extraordinary.”
“Incest, rape, sexual assault as a child or teenager is a taboo word in American culture and communities since the very beginning,” Michael McDonnell, communications manager for SNAP, said. “The awareness about these horrors has to change. We stand in solidarity today for the victims who are being created today, and sadly, that is a reality.”
“Sexual abuse is a topic that can bring out many feelings and emotions,” Joyce Lukima, chief operating officer of PCAR, said. “Whether we have been directly impacted by sexual abuse or know and love someone who has been affected, this is a crime that affects all of us and a public health problem that we can all work to prevent.”
“Like so many other plain communities, the Amish community I lived in had rampant child sexual abuse. The only punishment a pedophile received was six weeks of shunning. Such a punishment will never deter a pedophile. Forgiveness is too often more important than getting children away from danger and keeping other kids from becoming victimized,” Misty Griffin said. Griffin authored the book “Tears of the Silenced” which Peacock then developed into “Sins of the Amish.” Griffin served as a consulting producer for the film.
Information provided to TVL by:
House Democratic Communications Office