– The House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved legislation sponsored by Rep. John Hershey (R-Franklin/Juniata/Mifflin) that would give victims the right to attend proceedings against their abusers unless the court determines that the victim’s testimony would be altered if he or she heard other testimony at the proceeding.
Currently, at a party’s request or on the court’s own motion, the court may order a witness or victim to be excluded from the proceedings, preventing this person from hearing testimony from other witnesses. While a family member, victim advocate or someone else who provides assistance or support can accompany juveniles in the courtroom, some victims are still excluded by a motion of the defense.
“Participating in court proceedings can be a necessary part of the healing process because it can validate the victim’s experience, empowering him or her. It provides a sense of closure that can be difficult to achieve otherwise,” Hershey said. “Without my bill, victims can lose another right during the judicial process.”
The bill is part of a legislative package designed to better protect crime victims from abuse and violence by helping those who are victimized to testify against and confront their abusers. The three other bills in the package would help additional child victims of sexual or other violent crimes testify against their perpetrators, ensure that a rape victim’s prior sexual assaults of other acts of victimization cannot be used to attack the victim’s character and provide greater protections victims who have autism and/or disabilities.
After receiving strong bipartisan support from the committee, the bill now advances to the full House for consideration.
Representative John Hershey
82nd Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Alison Evans