HARRISBURG—The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape is appalled at the accounts of sexual assault reported to have been perpetrated by seated elected members of our legislature. We extend our support to the women who showed courage by coming forward to share their experiences. Making a public report of sexual victimization is difficult; and is even more daunting for survivors hurt by public figures. They often must endure intense public scrutiny in addition to an already lengthy and emotionally taxing investigative process.
We urge Sen. Leach and Rep. Ellis to resign their elected positions.
Today, we call on leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives to set a new standard in the Commonwealth that clearly demonstrates that sexual harassment, abuse and assault will not be tolerated.
This is an opportunity for the Pennsylvania legislature to lead by example to create meaningful sanctions for credible experiences of behavior that leave citizens at risk and tarnishes the reputation of the Commonwealth. Senate leaders should follow the acts of the House who removed Rep. Ellis from committee roles and immediately relieve Sen. Leach of his roles as well while a full investigation takes place.
We know that historically the Pennsylvania legislature has not taken action unless criminal charges have been filed. However, America has born witness during the past several years that this standard is often an unrealistic bar to meet. The act of filing charges in itself has no bearing on whether a criminal act has occurre--it only determines whether a prosecutor feels that a case has enough evidence to go to trial or to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt before a jury. This is rarely the case for delayed reports such as these; and we have all witnessed that delayed reporting is normal and expected when it comes to sexual assault.
PCAR calls on our legislators to make it clear to Pennsylvanians that it does not matter how long it takes you to feel ready to share your experiences of sexual harassment, abuse or assault. When you come forward, what you say will be taken seriously because we know that delayed reporting of a sexual assault has no bearing on the genuineness of allegations; in fact, delayed reporting is normal and should be expected. It takes an incredible amount of courage for a survivor to come forward, and the level of attention surrounding a high-profile case makes it even more daunting to speak out, as victims fear the negative impact of media scrutiny and retaliation from the public or the accused.
Lastly, it is time for our legislative leaders to put partisan politics aside and pass a package of bills that will offer greater sexual harassment protections and accountability in state government. It’s long overdue and a shame that it was not accomplished last session.
Today, we ask our legislators to take action.