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Pennsylvania Legislation

 

  PCAR's Current Legislative Agenda  

Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape: 2022 State Legislative Agenda

Establish a look-back window for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse to access civil justice for past abuses: Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse deserve justice. Accountability—of those who caused harm—is paramount to healing for many survivors. PCAR supports all efforts to establish a retroactive civil window for victims of childhood sexual abuse. This one-time window would open a two-year timeframe during which survivors—whose legal options have already expired—an opportunity to look back and pursue civil justice. We support HB 951, HB 14, SB 8.

Expand medical support and identity protections for survivors: The Pennsylvania General Assembly has strengthened the options and resources available to victims of sexual assault by amending the Sexual Assault Testing and Evidence Collection (SATEC) Act over multiple legislative sessions. As a result, Pennsylvania is regarded as a national leader in employing best practices in medical care for victims.

We support:

  • HB 1848 and SB 860: Legislation that will establish a statewide tracking system for all sexual assault evidence (or rape kits), beginning with the initial collection of evidence within medical facilities. This bill will also allow victims to track their evidence as it processes through the system and access local resources, providing much-needed relief and consolation during a difficult time.
  • HB 2032: Legislation that further protects the anonymity of victims who wish to remain anonymous when seeking care and having evidence collected and tested, by aligning Title 18, Sec. 5106 with the Sexual Assault Testing and Evidence Collection Act.
  • Administrative and/or legislative efforts that will increase the number of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) throughout the state, to ensure that every survivor has access to a SANE, either in person or through tele-health.

Protect older adults from sexual abuse and exploitation: Older adults and adults with disabilities are at increased risk of sexual abuse and assault. This population is at greater risk for abuse and exploitation by caregivers--on whom they depend for survival, basic needs, and healthcare—yet our institutional sexual assault laws do not adequately protect these vulnerable adults. PCAR supports legislation that would bridge gaps in institutional sexual assault laws to protect care-dependent adults who receive care at home or in care facilities. We support SB 704 and HB 975.  

Safe housing for victims of sexual assault: Many Pennsylvanians face economic and housing insecurity—an issue COVID-19 has amplified. Too often, sexual violence is a precursor to—or result of— housing insecurity and homelessness. We seek to strengthen housing protections in private and public housing realms to ensure victims and their families have access to affordable and safe living environments. We support state legislation that strengthens housing protections by further codifying the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provisions within the Commonwealth, enabling victims to break leases without penalty, expunging eviction records related to abuse, and preventing sexual exploitation and harassment within housing realms. We support HB 2029.

Sexual abuse prevention in K—12 schools: Pennsylvania’s students and teachers are facing an unprecedented challenge in the COVID-19 era—spending less time face-to-face in the classroom and more time online and at home. Many students are spending more time interacting online without adult supervision. This increases risk factors for online predation and sexual exploitation, well-documented by the New York Times series on spiking consumption of online images that depict the sexual abuse of children. Virtual schooling also means many child victims are quarantined with abusive family or household members and cut off from caregivers and mandated reporters. We seek legislation that further supports teachers and school districts in identifying abuse in online environments and delivering child sexual abuse and exploitation prevention programs in collaboration with community-based organizations, such as rape crisis centers.

Sexual abuse prevention in postsecondary schools: We seek state legislation that enhances the safety of school environments so young Pennsylvanians can focus on learning, achieving success, and preparing for bright futures as leaders and contributors to our Commonwealth. Sexual violence can undermine that trajectory, but with early intervention and strong prevention education, we can support victims of school-based assaults and improve the safety of our campus communities. PCAR supports legislation that strengthens sexual assault prevention and response in institutions of higher education and expands prevention education programs in K-12 institutions. The It’s On Us-PA legislative package advances our prevention and response in important ways: equipping young people with an understanding of healthy relationships and consent; ensuring victims of sexual assault in higher education have access to services, rights, and accommodations that enable them to stay in school; and equipping schools with climate survey tools to better understand the risk factors that contribute to sexual violence and the best strategies to address them. We support the It’s On Us-PA legislative package: SB 730, HB 1489, SB 909, HB 1699, SB 785, HB 1490, HR 108, and SR 122.

Protections for immigrant and refugee victims fleeing abuse and assault: Undocumented and refugee children and adults face alarming risks for trafficking, sexual abuse, and intimate partner violence.  U- and T-visa programs were established by federal law to protect the safety of victims and to aid in the investigation and prosecution of violent crime. There are gaps in the implementation of this program throughout the Commonwealth that must be addressed. Improving the U- and T-visa program in Pennsylvania will give victims and their families access to a critical safety tool that enables them to report violent crime and achieve stability while healing from sexual violence. This not only benefits individual victims, but also aids in the successful investigation and prosecution of violent crime throughout the Commonwealth, making our communities safer. PCAR has partnered with a coalition of advocates and organizations who are working to collaboratively bridge all gaps in the U- and T-visa program.

For more information about this agenda, please contact Donna Greco, policy director: dgreco@pcar.org; 717-728-7940, x114.

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Find your legislators

Our Policy Successes

The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape is thankful to the state legislature for their work to pass the bills listed below in support of survivors and their loved ones.

HB 962: Reform Statutes of Limitations

Sponsor: Rep. Rozzi

Eliminates in certain cases, and extends the criminal and civil statutes of limitations for sexual offenses. Expands the rights of victims between ages 18 and 23 to seek justice in both criminal and civil courts. The bill also expands the Victims Compensation Assistance Program to provide funds for counseling and therapy.

 

HB 156: Increasing Age of Protected Child Victims in Court

Sponsor: Rep. Owlett

Allows for out-of-court statements made by child victims age 16 and under to be submitted as evidence for certain offenses in court, rather than requiring these victims to testify in open court. Previously, these accommodations were only offered to children age 12 and under.

 

HB 246: Expanding Rape Shield Protections to Human Trafficking Victims

Sponsor: Rep. Mihalek

Prohibits persons accused of human trafficking from submitting the victim’s past sexual conduct or age (as it relates to age of consent or age of marriage) as a defense in court.

 

HB 843: Human Trafficking and Prostitution Considerations in Custody Decisions

Sponsor: Rep. Rowe

Mandates that when courts make custody decisions, they must consider any convictions of the parties or their household members of certain offenses related to human trafficking and prostitution. If one of the parties in the custody proceeding has such a conviction, or a member of their household does, the court must determine that this party or household member does not pose a threat to the child before allowing this party custody.

 

HB 954: Improving Coordination of Child Abuse Prevention/ Investigation

Sponsor: Rep. Stephens

Allows law enforcement agencies to share information related to cases of child abuse with other government and nonprofit entities for the purpose of improving cooperation with related service providers. Permits criminal justice agencies to share information relating to allegations or instances of child abuse with county agencies and the Department of Human Services in order to improve the coordination of child abuse investigations. Additionally, permits criminal justice agencies to share this information with children’s advocacy centers in order to receive relevant services. Finally, allows for criminal justice agencies to share this information with multidisciplinary review teams, multidisciplinary investigative teams, child fatality review teams, and child near fatality review teams to coordinate efforts to investigate, prevent, and address child abuse. Those authorized by this bill to receive such information may not share it with other individuals. This is consistent with the principles of central repositories and automated systems of child abuse information.

 

HB 1147: Expanding Mandatory Sex Offender Counseling/Therapy

Sponsor: Rep. Gaydos

Mandates sex offender counseling and therapy for incarcerated people convicted of child sex trafficking or crimes associated with prostitution or incest, regardless of the age of the victim. Previously, incarcerated people convicted of prostitution or incest were only mandated to attend sex offender counseling or therapy if the victim was a minor.

 

HB 1431: Abuse of a Care-Dependent Person

Sponsor: Rep. Klunk

Defines the use of any audio, video, or still images of a care-dependent person to ridicule or demean that person as abuse of a care-dependent person. This offense is a misdemeanor of the third degree.

 

SB 81: Expansion of Expert Testimony

Sponsor: Sen. Langerholc

Allows for expert testimony in any criminal proceeding for any crime related to sex offender registration or continued sex offender registration, including the perpetration, attempt, solicitation, or conspiracy to commit crimes related to sex trafficking, incest, sex offenses, prostitution, child sexual abuse, unlawful contact with a minor, child sexual exploitation, domestic violence, and endangering the welfare of a child or corrupting minors when sexual contact was involved. Experts may have specialized knowledge in either sexual or domestic violence (previously the statute allowed for only experts in sexual violence). Domestic violence is defined as simple or aggravated assault, stalking, or strangulation, if these crimes were committed against a family or household member.

 

SB 87: Establishment of Task Force on Child Pornography/ Enhancement of Child Pornography Sentencing

Sponsor: Sen. Baker

Establishes Task Force on Child Pornography and provides for composition (includes the Director of PCAR and the director of a PA rape crisis center as appointed by the governor), meetings, public hearings, inter-agency cooperation, reports, and actions of the task force.

Task Force will review any weaknesses in current child pornography laws, recommend improvements to investigation and prosecution of child pornography, and suggest changes to State statutes, practices, policies, and procedures related to recognition and prosecution of child pornography.

Additionally enhances sentencing for some offenses of child pornography, and allows for the age of the child (under 10 years or prepubescent) and whether the child was known to the defendant to be considered when determining sentencing.

HB 962: Reform Statutes of Limitations

Sponsor: Rep. Rozzi

Eliminates in certain cases, and extends the criminal and civil statutes of limitations for sexual offenses. Expands the rights of victims between ages 18 and 23 to seek justice in both criminal and civil courts. The bill also expands the Victims Compensation Assistance Program to provide funds for counseling and therapy.

 

HB 1051: Hold mandated reporters accountable

Sponsor: Rep. Stephens

Increases penalties for mandated reporters who willfully fail to report child sexual abuse.

 

HB 1171: Protect one's ability to report abuse

Sponsor: Rep. Toohill

Stops non-disclosure agreements that bar victims from reporting to law enforcement.

 

HB 1402:

Sponsors: Reps. Nesbit and McClinton

Establishes sexual extortion as a crime with appropriate penalties. This bill is a model for the nation because it includes harm
toward victims and their loved ones as well as monetary extortion that often accompanies coercion of a sexual nature.

 

SB 399:

Sponsor: Sen. Langerholc

Amends the Sexual Assault Testing and Evidence Collection Act to establish greater consistencies for victims, expands victim rights and the notification of such rights, extends the preservation of evidence to the duration of the Statute of Limitations, and ensures victims have access to a sexual assault counselor from a local rape crisis center.

 

HB 502: Provide access to victims to watch court proceedings

Sponsor: Rep. Hershey

Amends the Crime Victims Act to allow victims to watch court proceedings via telecommunications.

 

HB 504: Prohibit a victim's past sexual victimization of past allegations from being admitted as evidence

Sponsor: Rep. Mihalek

Past sexual victimization or past allegations are prohibited from use as evidence.

 

SB 469: Help victims or witnesses with intellectual disabilities or autism testify in court

Sponsor: Sen. Laughlin

This bill creates another avenue for victims and witnesses with intellectual disabilities or autism testify in court proceedings.

 

SB 479: Allow statements by child victims or witnesses to be admissible in court

Sponsor: Sen. Baker

This bill allows for statements by child victims or witnesses for crimes such as sexual offenses, assault, or kidnapping.

 

SB 276: Constitutionally protect the rights of victims through Marsy's Law

Sponsor: Rep. Delozier

Marsy’s Law amended the constitution to specify protected rights for victims and protection from harassment or retaliation from the accused.

 

Act 16 of 2019 (HB 1615)

Sponsor: Re. Turzai (originally sponsored by Sen. Baker)

Require postsecondary institutions to establish online, anonymous reporting options for victims and bystanders to report sexual misconduct.

 

Act 16 of 2019 (HB 1615)

Sponsor: Rep. Turzai (originally sponsored by Sen. Schwank)

Require postsecondary institutions to provide drug and alcohol amnesty when individuals report sexual misconduct in good faith.