As we, the residents of Centre County are all too aware, sexual assault happens and it is one of the most personally violating crimes that can be experienced. Sexual assault is traumatic, it is horrific, it is devastating, and it is unacceptable. Furthermore, a victim's response to these crimes is often misunderstood.
This may begin to change thanks to a new state law that took effect Aug. 28. For the first time prosecutors in Pennsylvania courtrooms are allowed to call on expert witnesses for factual testimony about the behaviors of sexual assault victims. As a point of interest, Pennsylvania is the last state in the country to enact this law, and it would never have been passed without the tireless efforts of advocates for victims of sexual assault.
Please 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.
Why is this law important? Until now, jurors weren't given the knowledge needed to understand all of the challenges victims of sexual assault face. This law will help jurors make decisions based on factual information and expert insight. In taking a stand for victims of sexual assault, Pennsylvania will move one step closer toward safety in our communities and justice for all.
Jody Althouse State College
The writer is director of outreach and communications for the Centre County Women's Resource Center.