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Bill Opening A Window For Child Sexual Abuse Survivors To Sue Abusers Is Again, Up For A Vote

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State lawmakers could vote as early as next week on House Bill 951, which, if passed, would open a two year window for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to sue their abusers.

Representative Mark Rozzi is optimistic his bill supporting survivors of childhood sexual abuse will pass(0:00 — 10:15)

The state Senate could give final approval when it returns to session next week to House Bill 951, which opens a two-year window for victims of sexual abuse to sue their abusers after the statute of limitations expired.

Berks County Rep. Mark Rozzi is the sponsor of the measure. He’s proposed it twice before, but the legislation has repeatedly died in the Senate.

“I think that with new leadership in the Senate, a new President pro tem[pore] Jake Corman, and we had a new Senate judiciary chair Lisa Baker, who are both supportive of the bill, and those are the two key spots in the senate that we need,” says Rozzi. “They understand enough is enough, victims have waited 15 plus years.”

Rozzi has been open about his own story as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, even through his initial run for office in 2012.

Some Republicans in Harrisburg have said opening this two-year window needs to happen through a constitutional amendment, and doing so through legislation is unconstitutional. But Rozzi says as the law only makes a procedural change (adjusting the time limit allowing survivors to sue), and not a substantive change, like redefining the crime, it is constitutional.

Rozzi expects the law to be challenged by institutions like the Catholic Church.

“You’re either standing with victims of childhood sex abuse, or you stand with the pedophiles and the people who aid and abet them,” says Rozzi. “There is a clear line in the sand here, and if you choose one, you will be held accountable for your actions.”

Vaccinating rural populations presents new challenges(10:18 — 18:00)

The Biden administration has announced new efforts to reach rural Americans targeting funds and coronavirus vaccine doses to health systems and offices in areas with low vaccination rates.

In Lancaster County, the Plain community, including Amish and conservative Mennonite populations, could be harder to reach since they tend to be more isolated.

According to state data, about half of Lancaster County population’s has gotten at least one dose.

“We have worked with significant community partners in the Amish community for many, many years,” says Alice Yoder, executive director of community health for Penn Medicine at Lancaster General Health. “In non-pandemic times, many people in the Plain community tend to value alternative treatments and home care, and typically do not focus on prevention and screenings, so communication around the importance of mask wearing, social distancing, testing and now getting vaccinated has been our greatest challenge.”

Yoder says they’ve worked around these challenges by using language that’s culturally sensitive when explaining the pandemic and preventative measures to these communities.

“They’ve shared with us some of the main questions that they have, for example: They’re concerned that if they get the vaccine they’ll have long term health effects,” says Yoder. “We’ll answer that question within that context, we’ll keep the answer very short. We may be a little bit more lengthy in [explaining to] the general population.”

Yoder says the Plain community represents up to 25,000 people in Lancaster County, but there’s a lack of epidemiological data; health care systems don’t ask if people are affiliated with an Amish, Mennonite or religious group. This means it’s unknown how many people in the Plain community are vaccinated.

Yoder says her organization is planning to hold two walk-in vaccination clinics in the county to reduce any barriers or hesitancy to vaccination, something they learned by working with community partners to reach otherwise isolated people.

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Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Laura Tsutsui is a producer for The Confluence, WESA's morning news show. Previously, she reported on the San Joaquin Valley with the NPR affiliate station in her hometown of Fresno, California. She can be reached at ltsutsui@wesa.fm.
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