To the editor:
Sexual assault is one of the most personally violating crimes, and a victim's response to these crimes is often misunderstood. Thanks to a new state law that took effect Aug. 28, prosecutors in Pennsylvania courtrooms are allowed - for the first time- to call on expert witnesses for factual testimony about the behaviors of sexual assault victims.
Why is that important? Here's just one example: Most jurors do not know that the brain processes and stores traumatic memories differently than any other type of memory. Hearing clinical information like that from expert witnesses such as physicians, psychologists and sexual assault counselors will help jurors understand why a victim of sexual violence might have found it difficult to report the crime or remember the details in sequential order. And that's just one example.
Pennsylvania is the last state in the country to enact this law. Advocates for victims of sexual assault, such as The Abuse Network, applaud the many people who worked toward the bill's passage. It wouldn't have been possible without the hard work and dedication of prosecutors, law enforcement, legislators, including the bill's champion Rep. Cherelle Parker and co-sponsor Rep. Kate Harper, the governor's office, and victims themselves who bravely told their stories to highlight the need for this legislation.
Until now, justice in the courtroom was tilted toward the offender, because jurors weren't given the knowledge they needed to understand all of the challenges victims face. This law will help jurors make decisions based on information and insight. In taking a stand for victims of sexual assault, it moves Pennsylvania one step closer to safety in our communities and justice for all.
The Abuse Network