In this Update:
Senate Votes to Expand Sexual Assault Law to Cover Crimes Against Care-Dependent Pennsylvanians
The Senate voted to expand the law against institutional sexual assault to include assaults by caregivers on care-dependent individuals, closing a loophole that allows perpetrators to escape punishment.
Current law against sexual assault applies to institutions such as prisons, schools and law enforcement. It is premised on the fact that truly consensual sexual acts are not possible where someone is in a position of power over another.
Passage of Senate Bill 704 recognizes the same power disparity exists between caretakers and those in their care. Such individuals face additional challenges to reporting sexual abuse due to the circumstances that make them dependent upon others, including physical or cognitive disabilities, and mental and physical health struggles.
Expanding the law against institutional sexual assault eliminates the loophole that permits perpetrators to falsely claim the victim consented. Senate Bill 704 will be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Observing Sexual Assault Awareness Month
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Expanding the law against institutional sexual assault is just the latest action taken by the General Assembly to stand together against this vile crime.
In recent years, lawmakers enacted measures strengthening the rights of sexual assault survivors and bolstering their ability to obtain justice.
Need help? Call 800-656-HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a local sexual assault service provider.
Safe Exchange Zones Could Come to More PA Communities with Senate Vote
Legislation to create a grant program to establish Safe Exchange Zones throughout Pennsylvania was approved by the Senate and sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 881 would provide a safe area for individuals to exchange goods bought and sold through an online marketplace, as well as serving as a safe place for child custody exchanges, among other practices.
The Safe Exchange Zones would be voluntary and require the agreement of the participating law enforcement agencies. The zones would be equipped with video surveillance and are either within 100 feet of a law enforcement office or located near a public area with an active public presence. Passage came a year to the day that Cambria County resident Denise Williams was murdered after she attempted to finalize the purchase of an item found through Facebook Marketplace.
Grants Available to Help Drug and Alcohol Recovery Houses
Effective treatment for individuals in recovery from a substance use disorder is essential for healthy communities. State grants are available to help recovery houses with facility upgrades to comply with federal, state, and local laws and receive a state license.
Grants up to $50,000 for a 12-month period beginning July 1 will be awarded to eligible applicants for health and safety upgrades including demolition, debris removal, rehabilitation improvements, environmental remediation costs, and construction and inspections to comply with state regulations.
Applicants must meet several qualifications to be eligible. More information is available here.
Saturday is National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day
It’s commemorated on April 9 because that day in 1942 was the prelude to the Bataan Death March in the Philippines, the forcible transfer by the Imperial Japanese Army of up to 80,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war. Up to 650 American and 10,000 Filipino soldiers died during the brutal, 65-mile march.
We must never forget the ordeal faced by prisoners of war during captivity and the emotional toll on those fortunate enough to survive.
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