PCAR's Current Legislative Agenda
Criminalize sexual extortion:
Sexual extortion is a form of extortion, where sexual acts and images are the currency of the exchange. This crime occurs when a person threatens harm or withholds a reward or service in order to coerce sexual acts, images, or videos from a victim. This is not only an abuse of power and authority. It is a sex crime with long-lasting detrimental effects on victims. Unfortunately, in the current digital age, this crime is on the rise, with minors and Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable victims at increased risk. Yet these acts fall through the cracks of existing sex offenses without being fully defined or addressed.
It is time to pass SB 337 (Schwank & K. Ward) and its House companion, HB 1402 (Nesbit & McClinton)—enabling Pennsylvania to better identify, charge, and prosecute sexual extortion and establish penalties that match the severity of the crime.
Reform statutes of limitation:
PCAR supports legislation that reforms the criminal and civil statutes of limitation, including a retroactive window for victims whose options have expired to seek civil remedies. We support efforts to strengthen the safety of all victims and their right to seek justice. Individuals and institutions must be held accountable if we are to prevent future harm to the Commonwealth. PCAR supports legislation that empowers victims to choose a range of options they feel will be most beneficial, whether economic, legal, emotional, or another form of support.
Strengthen rape kit testing and evidence collection:
PCAR supports efforts to strengthen sexual assault evidence collection and testing, including protocols that ensure consistency for victims throughout the Commonwealth. Location and county lines should not dictate the services and options available to victims of sexual assault. Pennsylvania has model Sexual Assault Response Teams (SARTs) the rest of the country seeks to replicate. PCAR supports legislation that expands those best practices to ensure every county is successful in addressing unknown jurisdiction, anonymous testing, and trauma-informed victim response systems in collaboration with rape crisis centers.
PCAR supports SB 399 (Langerholc), which would align Pennsylvania’s victim rights with the federal survivor’s bill of rights and strengthen consistency in sexual assault evidence collection and testing throughout the Commonwealth.
Prevent rapists from asserting parental rights:
In Pennsylvania, a convicted rapist can still assert parental rights over the victim’s child. While a convicted rapist cannot be awarded custody, they still possess and can assert legal parental rights through the courts and other avenues. This results in the re-victimization of the victim and their child/ren over course of their lives. Furthermore, when victims petition to terminate the rapist's parental rights, courts require them to produce another parent who will adopt their child/ren, in place of the rapist.
It is time to pass legislation that would close this inadvertent and antiquated loophole that harms victims and their children in the Commonwealth.
End child marriage in Pennsylvania: Reform statutes of limitation:
Nationally, over 250,000 children were married between 2000 and 2010, some as young as 11 years old. Child sexual abuse, statutory rape, and trafficking can be both precursors to and outcomes of child marriage. Forced child marriages most commonly involve girls who are married to older, adult men. Marriage is a legal contract, yet minors do not have full legal rights, establishing a stark and problematic power imbalance. Child marriages negatively impact victims, their families, and our larger Commonwealth. They create risks for poverty, domestic and sexual violence, poor health and mental health outcomes, drug and alcohol dependency, interrupted education, and unplanned pregnancies.
It is time to establish 18 as the minimum age of marriage in Pennsylvania and support SB 81 (Sabatina) and HB 360 (Topper).
Prevent and address sexual harassment
We are experiencing an unprecedented era of heightened awareness and concern within the general public and our legislature about sexual harassment, abuse, and assault. More Pennsylvanians are speaking out about the harmful effects of sexual violence on individuals, families, workplaces, and our larger communities. PCAR supports legislation that strengthens the reporting, investigation, and resolution of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault; victim services and safety mechanisms in the workplace; best practices in training and prevention; transparency of policies and procedures; offender accountability; and collaborations with the PA Network of Rape Crisis Centers.
Bills of Interest
SB 3: Abortion restriction
Sponsor: Brooks - Mercer County
This bill would reduce a person's access to abortive services from 24 to 20 weeks, with no exceptions for victims of rape and incest.
PCAR opposes this bill.
Note: This bill passed both the Senate and House of Representative, but was vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf on December 18. Lawmakers could override Gov. Wolf's veto, but it would require a two-thirds vote from each body. The Senate passed the bill, 32-18 while the House approved it by a 121-70 vote. To override it, the Senate would been 33 votes from its 50 members, while the House would need 136 of its 203 members.
SB 10: Penalties for immigrant refuge policies
Sponsor: Reschenthaler - Allegheny County
This bill would penalize municipalities that provide "refuge" to immigrant communities, withholding critical funds for victim services, homeless shelters, and other lifelines for vulnerable populations. The bill could further undermine the safety of immigrant victims and their families.
PCAR opposes this bill.
SB 261: Statutes of limitations reform in child sexual abuse cases
PCAR continues to advocate for the passage of SB 261 which would eliminate criminal limitations going forward, expand the civil limitations from 30 to 50 years, and provide a one-time window for previously time-barred victims to seek civil justice and remedies.
SB 1011 and HB 1993: Marsy's Law
Sponsors: SB 1011 Guy Reschenthaler--Allegheny and Washington counties & HB 1993 Sheryl Delozier--Cumberland County:
Marsy’s Law elevates victims’ rights to the constitutional level—as opposed to the current statutory level—putting them on the same footing as defendants in our courts and leveling the scales of justice. This provides victims a stronger voice in criminal proceedings. Marsy’s Law provides victims with rights to be heard and present, to receive notice of rights and proceedings, to confer with prosecution, to timely proceedings, and others. Constitutional rights affords victims and their advocates standing to assert these rights in trial and appellate courts.
PCAR supports Marsy’s Law
HB 114: Medical assistance for children
Sponsor: Baker - Tioga County
This bill would require individuals who are applying for medical assistance for their child(ren) to provide information about the noncustodial parent prior to receiving assistance. An exception was added for victims of domestic violence, per the Family Violence Option waiver in the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program.
PCAR requests an amendment to include victims of sexual violence, whose offenders may not be intimate partners or members of the family.
HB 489: Enhanced penalties for indecent exposure to minors
Sponsor: Quigley - Montgomery County
This bill would enhance penalties for offenses involving indecent exposure to minors under the age of 16, who are present and see the exposed genitals. Where the offense is a misdemeanor of the first degree, aggravating circumstances would include number of children under 16 who were present, the age of each person present under the age of 16, and the nature and character of the indecent exposure.
PCAR supports this bill.
HB 594: Prohibiting accelerated sentences for sexually offending a child
Sponsor: Benninghoff - Centre County
This bill would prohibit the state or court to authorize an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition for people who have sexually assaulted a child under the age of 18. This would include the following offenses: rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, and aggravated indecent assault.
PCAR supports this bill.
HB 631: Mandatory probation for certain sexual offenses
Sponsor: Marsico - Dauphin County
This bill would require a three-year period of probation for people who have completed their sentences for Tier III sexual offenses. Tier III offenses include: kidnapping, rape, statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, and aggravated indecent assault, incest, aggravated sexual abuse, sexual abuse, abusive sexual contact with a victim under the age of 13, and/or an attempt to conspire or solicit to commit such offenses.
The bill passed the House and Senate on Feb. 6.
PCAR supports this bill.
HB 741: Technical correction in mandatory minimum sentences
Sponsor: Stephens - Montgomery County
This bill provides a technical correction to evidentiary and sentencing procedures in Pennsylvania. This correction would reinstate mandatory minimum sentencing for a range of crimes, including sexually violent crimes against children and older adults and for failure to comply with sex offender registration requirements.
PCAR supports provisions related to sexual violence against children and older adults and failure to comply with sex offender registration requirements.
HB 1757 and SB 871: Amnesty
Sponsors: HB 1757 Madeleine Dean--Montgomery County and SB 871 Judy Schwank--Berks County
PCAR supports HB 1757 and SB 871
HB 1952: Sex Offender Registry
Sponsor: Ron Marsico--Dauphin County
In July 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled (in Commonwealth v. Muniz), that the sex offender registry is punitive, not civil, and therefore, could not be applied to individuals who committed sex offenses prior to the Adam Walsh Act enactment in 2012.
Following the Muniz ruling, in October 2017, the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled (in Commonwealth v. Butler), that Pennsylvania’s current system of classifying individuals as “sexually violent predators” (SVP), was also unconstitutional because the SVP classification is punitive in nature, yet occurred post-conviction; at a lower “clear and convincing” as opposed to a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard; and was presented before a judge, not a jury of peers. All SVP hearings were halted by the Superior Court until the Pennsylvania General Assembly could address these constitutional concerns legislatively.
HB 1952 maintains the state’s sex offender registry for crimes committed post-2012, but reverts back to the previous version of the registry for individuals who committed crimes prior to the 2012 changes. Additionally, the bill would allow individuals with SVP classifications to petition to be relieved of their registration requirements after 25 years and enables individuals to update their status by phone, instead of in-person, if they have met their requirements.
HB 1952 was voted out of the Senate judiciary and is now in the Senate appropriations committee.
HB 1974: Crime Victims' Rights:
Sponsor: Hal English--Allegheny County
Crime victim rights: this bill affords crime victims the right to notified of, to attend, and to not be excluded from any criminal proceeding unless the court determines that the victim’s testimony would be altered as a result of the other proceedings.
HB 1974 was voted out of the House and is now being considered in the Senate judiciary committee.
PCAR supports this bill
SB 916: DNA Collection
Sponsors: Killion - Delaware County (SB 461) and Marsico - Dauphin County (HB 1523)
This bill would expand the crimes for which DNA samples are collected and processed. It strengthens public safety by collecting and uploading DNA into a national database, aiding law enforcement to identify and prevent repeat offenders.
PCAR supports these bills.
Recently passed legislation:
SB 554: Safe Harbor for minor victims of sex trafficking
Sponsor: Greenleaf - Montgomery County
This bill will protect, rather than prosecute, minor victims of sex trafficking and establishes training for first responders, funds, and services. PCAR participated in the PA Anti-Human Trafficking Advisory Work Group (PAHTAWG)--a coalition of advocates across the state that worked across multiple sessions to get this bill passed.
Gov. Tom Wolf signed SB 554 into law on Oct. 24.
SB 919: Relocation for victims in subsidized housing
This law requires housing authorieties to safely relocate victims of sexual and domestic violence, upon request, following an abusive incident and/or if the victim is in imminent harm of further violence. PCAR helped draft SB 919 in collaboration with Senator Art Haywood's office. This bill aligns PA with federal housing protections in the Violence Against Women Act and helps protect victims from further assaults and abuses.
Gov. Tom Wolf signed SB 919 into law on Oct. 24.
PCAR also reviews legislation at the request of allied stakeholders, such as PCADV, CVAP, OVA, PSP and the PDAA.
For questions or comments, please contact Kristen Houser at 717-728-9740 ext. 144 or Donna Greco at 717-728-9740 ext. 114
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