The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape advanced its mission to eliminate sexual violence and advocate for victims of sexual assault with a well-attended and energetic Advocacy Day event April 4 at the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg.
This year, our Advocacy Day drew attention to:
The need for proper funding for the 50 rape crisis centers in Pennsylvania
Pending legislation that will help sexual assault victims
Critical issues related to child sexual abuse.
At the event, PCAR highlighted the importance of funding support for the 50 rape crisis centers in Pennsylvania. These centers continue to struggle financially to meet the support and counseling needs of victims and their families. In fiscal year 2010-11, the rape crisis centers served 30,077 women, men, children and significant others. Those people include nearly 8,000 children who received individual care, and 3,333 children who participated in group counseling. Another 11,500 adults who received our services were sexually abused as children.
In the Main Rotunda at the State Capital, PCAR promoted the following state legislation:
Senate Bill 58 - Sexual Violence Protection Act, which would enable a victim to petition a court for protection from an individual, even if the victim has not filed criminal charges. Many victims of sexual assault are not protected under the current law in Pennsylvania.
House Bill 2016 – Human Trafficking, which would provide the legal means to hold human traffickers who coerce or force people to participate in commercial sex accountable for their criminal actions. Current legislation in Pennsylvania does not provide the criminal justice system with the tools to effectively investigate, charge and prosecute people who traffic adults and minors for commercial sexual abuse.
House Bill 1264 — Expert Witness Testimony, which would allow experts to take the witness stand to answer questions about a victim’s behavior in criminal cases such as those for sexual assault. This bill, which just moved from the Senate Judiciary Committee to the Senate floor, would allow expert witnesses to explain to jurors how the brain processes traumatic events, thus explaining that certain behaviors — such as a victim’s lack of clarity around specific details of an assault — are commonplace and “normal” after a trauma.
Statute of limitations for child sexual assault crimes, which The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape believes should be eliminated both in civil and criminal cases. This legislation is important because statutes of limitations constraints are particularly problematic for child sexual abuse survivors. Many victims take decades before they are emotionally ready to confront their abusers. Presently, 10 bills have been introduced in PA to eliminate the statute of limitations for reporting child sexual abuse – clearly showing this is a priority issue for PA.
PCAR was thrilled to be joined for Advocacy Day by members of the Keystone Chapter of the International Association of Forensic Nurses (KIAFN). Through their compassionate patient care, skilled collection of evidence and expert courtroom testimony, forensic nurses provide important services to victims of sexual violence.
Rep. Brian Ellis, sponsor of HB 2016 spoke on the need to fight human trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation and abuse, and Dave Freed, District Attorney of Cumberland County spoke in support of HB 1264 to allow expert witness testimony.
Sexual abuse is prevalent in our society, but with organizations and individuals working together, we can work to prevent these crimes in the future and to protect victims’ rights today.
For more details on Advocacy Day and the legislation we’re focused on, please see the links in the box below.