(HARRISBURG) – The Pennsylvania Senate today passed a package of four bills designed to assist crime victims by providing stronger protections, increasing support, and improving access to services, according to Senator Lisa Baker (R-20), Senator Ryan Aument (R-36), Senator Kim Ward (R-39), Senator Pat Browne (R-16) and Senator Elder Vogel (R-47).
Senator Lisa Baker (R-20), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, emphasized that protecting children and adult victims of abuse has been a focus of the Judiciary Committee for the last several sessions. The measures advanced by the full Senate this week address some of the pressing needs voiced by many victims and advocates.
“In addition to streamlining the process so more victims of domestic violence can benefit from the program, Senate Bill 1179 takes a very important step forward in helping to better protect children and victims of human trafficking,” Senator Baker said. “The need was brought to our attention by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.”
Senate Bill 1179 was introduced jointly by Senator Baker and Senator Aument. The bill extends the address confidentiality provisions of the ‘Domestic and Sexual Violence Victim Address Confidentiality Act,’ to include the victims of child abduction and the victims of human trafficking. In addition to the expansion of this coverage, the bill updates the Act to allow for applications for address confidentiality to be submitted electronically.
“It’s already incredibly difficult for victims of sexual and domestic violence to get to a place of safety and freedom,” Senate Majority Caucus Secretary Ryan Aument said. “Our bill makes that process simpler so victims can focus on healing and rebuilding their lives.”
Senate Bill 118, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, expands Megan’s Law to require offenders convicted of any sex trafficking-related offenses to register.
“Sex trafficking is a significant issue in Pennsylvania as our state ranks 9th in the nation for the most reported cases of human trafficking,” Senator Ward said. “Most human traffickers are repeat offenders and most use psychological ploys of tricking, defrauding, manipulating, or threatening their victims to the point that many victims don’t realize they are being trafficked, in particular minors. We must serve as advocates for these victims by immediately registering offenders when trafficking incidents are reported. SB 118 does just that by helping victims when they cannot help themselves, by amending Megan’s Law to include sex trafficking of minors to the sex offender registry, offering one more resource to reduce such heinous acts and help victims.”
Senate Bill 1040, sponsored jointly by Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Pat Browne and Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, seeks to ensure that in the tragic event of a murder, communication with the family of a victim takes place before the law enforcement agency otherwise publicly releases the victim’s or intervenor’s identity.
“The family of a murder victim should never find out about their loved one’s tragic death from the news or on social media,” Senator Browne said. “This legislation will require law enforcement to make reasonable efforts to ensure that a surviving family member of the victim is properly notified before releasing their identity to the media. It is my hope that this measure will help to ease some of the shock and pain of grieving families.”
Expanding access to quality care for victims is also a crucial part of this package. Senate Deputy President Pro-Tempore Elder Vogel introduced Senate Bill 1172 to enact the Sexual Assault Emergency Services Act. This legislation expands access to Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (“SANEs”) to better provide quality care for victims. SANEs have specialized training in trauma and forensic nursing and are vital to a complete care system for survivors of sexual assault.
“Senate Bill 1172 sets up a critical foundation for the development and augmentation of sexual assault care here in the Commonwealth,” Senator Vogel said. “I’m gratified to see it join this package of bills empowering victims and survivors of crime.”
All four bills now advance to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Kate Flessner (Senator Baker) firstname.lastname@example.org
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