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Proposed legislation would close sexual offense loopholes

Originally published on April 19, 2018

For immediate release:

Proposed legislation would close sexual offense loopholes

A new bill (SB 1134) to protect Pennsylvanians from sextortion was introduced in the PA Senate this week and has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sexual extortion, or Sextortion, is a growing form of sexual exploitation—often facilitated by technology in this current digital age. Sextortion happens when a person abuses their power or authority to coerce sexual acts, images, or videos from a victim.

Senate bill 1134 would criminalize acts of sextortion and establish grading/sentencing that would improve Pennsylvania’s ability to hold offenders accountable—establishing penalties that are proportionate to the severity of this sex crime.

In many instances, current laws either insufficiently or do not address the acts of sextortion which allow these crimes and their perpetrators to go under-punished or unpunished at all.

“The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape advocates for the rights and needs of sexual assault victims throughout the Commonwealth, including victims who often fall through the cracks, such as those impacted by sextortion,” PCAR CEO Karen Baker said. “We’re grateful to Senators Schwank and Vulakovich and the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association for their partnership in drafting this legislation. If passed, this bill will establish sextortion as the serious sex crime that it is, helping victims access support and justice.”

The bill, led by Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks) and Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny), is a bipartisan effort to address sextortion, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, and the Office of the Victim Advocate.

“Sextortion is an emerging and insidious crime, which often targets minors and those who are vulnerable,” PDAA President John Adams said.  “Our laws do not adequately cover this conduct, but this legislation will remedy the problem.  The PDAA is proud to have worked with PCAR and the bill sponsors to draft an excellent bill that will make a real difference.”

Similar sextortion legislation has passed in Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Utah and California.

About PCAR:

PCAR works to end sexual violence and advocates for the rights and needs of sexual assault victims. We partner with a network of 50 rape crisis centers to bring help, hope, and healing to people in all of the Commonwealth’s 67 counties. Last year, rape crisis centers provided services to approximately 30,000 victims. Each year, rape crisis centers teach over 300,000 Pennsylvanians how to stop sexual violence in their communities. Over 50,000 professionals are trained by rape crisis centers to enhance the Commonwealth’s systemic responses to victims.

About the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association: PDAA is comprised of approximately 1,000 members and is charged with providing uniformity and efficiency in the discharge of duties and functions of Pennsylvania’s 67 district attorneys and their assistants.  Since it was founded in 1912, the association has dutifully sponsored extensive training programs and reported legal and legislative developments of importance to Pennsylvania prosecutors.  In addition, the association is often called upon by legislative leaders, at the state and national level, to address public policy issues and efforts, which impact the prosecution of criminal cases, victim rights and public safety.