New laws to help sexual abuse victims in Pennsylvania

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – More than a dozen pieces of legislation in Pennsylvania, aimed at helping sexual assault victims, are now law. According to officials with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR), all of their legislative priorities for the 2019/2020 legislative session are now law, something they say is unprecedented.

“In the past, we’ve seen with a lot of bills that it often takes multiple sessions, many years to see a bill cross the finish line,” said Donna Greco, PCAR Policy Director.

“It’s definitely the most successful session that I’ve witnessed,” said Karen Baker, PCAR Chief Executive Officer.

The 13 new laws include statute of limitations reform in sexual abuse cases, requires colleges to establish online, anonymous reporting options for victims, and criminalizes sexual extortion.

“These are acts of exploitation and coercion that have happened for a very long time, but yet were falling through the cracks of our current statutes in Pennsylvania. They were not considered a crime,” said Greco.

There are other changes as well.

“All counties are responsible for offering the same types of options in terms of medical care, and how evidence is collected and tested,” said Greco.

This all comes during a pandemic, a time that’s been particularly hard for many sexual assault victims.

“When people looked at that expression, ‘stay home, stay safe,’ that wasn’t the case for some of the survivors we were working with, because some of them experienced abuse from those that they are with,” said Mary Onama, Executive Director for the Victim Services Center of Montgomery County.

Officials with PCAR say they will unveil new plans to help sexual violence victims for the current legislative session soon.

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