Harrisburg, PA –On Tuesday, November 22, The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) held a virtual press conference highlighting the organization’s policy successes for the 2021 - 2022 legislative session. PCAR and the network of 47 rape crisis centers throughout the Commonwealth are thankful to Governor Wolf and the state legislature for their bi-partisan leadership in passing legislation that supports sexual assault survivors.
Donna Greco, Public Policy and Legislative Affairs Director for PCAR discussed a few of those legislative advancements during the press conference. The amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution to support adult survivor of child sex abuse to file civil suit against their abuser has been a long-standing policy priority. She expressed gratitude to Representatives Gregory and Rozzi for championing House Bill 14, which passed this session; and noted that it must be reintroduced and passed again in the 2023 session. Once passed in the next session then Pennsylvania voters will have an opportunity to cast a ballot to support survivors. “PCAR applauds Governor Wolf and Pennsylvania legislators who have agreed to prioritize a retroactive window for time-barred victims when they return to Harrisburg in the 2023 session,” said Greco. This legislation establishes a two-year look-back window for adult survivors of child sexual abuse to access civil justice for past abuses, which is a critical part of healing for many victims.
Greco also highlighted HB 2032, which ensures victims can seek medical care and have evidence collected and tested anonymously, under the Sexual Assault Testing and Evidence Collection (SATEC) Act. “This is an important option for victims who may be fearful of further harm, or who may need the assurance of privacy and time while they contemplate their next steps,” Greco states.
The newly enacted law also directs the Pennsylvania State Police to work with PCAR in identifying and reporting on the resources required to create a statewide rape kit tracking system. Such a system will allow survivors to directly access information about their kits, their rights, and local services. A tracking system will also enhance public safety and enable Pennsylvania to prevent a future rape kit backlog.
A statewide rape kit tracking system provides victims with timely information and updates about the status of the evidence while reminding them of their rights as a crime victim and the services available to them, including sexual assault centers, as they heal from sexual violence. Act 70 directs the Pennsylvania State Police to identify the specific resources that are needed to establish a statewide tracking system, in consultation with PCAR, and issue a report of its findings to the legislature in 2023. “We often hear from victims that they do not know what is happening with the evidence after they leave the hospital; a tracking system would provide transparency and some peace-of-mind to survivors as well as support in their healing process,” according to Greco.
PCAR celebrated these legislative priorities and added that there are several others that have been enacted this session. A list of those bills and others that PCAR advocated for on behalf of survivors and their loved ones can be found here.
The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape is the oldest state anti-sexual violence coalition in the U.S. The organization represents 47 sexual assault centers that serve the state’s 67 counties. Each year these centers provide free, confidential services to more than 30,000 adults and children impacted by sexual abuse.