Josh Shapiro: Major victory for abuse survivors
We’re working overtime right now in the Office of Attorney General — protecting your financial security and stopping price gouging during the public health emergency — and still meeting our core responsibilities to public safety. In fact, we just won two major victories that will protect Pennsylvanians from the most dangerous sexually violent predators.
Survivors of sexual assault inspire our office with their strength and resilience. The emotional trauma and physical abuse they’ve endured is heartbreaking and drives our fight against the devastating impacts of sexual violence in our commonwealth. Preventing these crimes and supporting survivors is a critical obligation of the Office of Attorney General.
Thanks to our efforts, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court just overturned a decision that would have undermined public safety and torn away a key protection for all Pennsylvanians. In this case, the court agreed that the commonwealth can continue to notify parents, neighbors, schools and child care centers every time an especially dangerous sexually violent predator moves into their community. The people on this list were convicted of abusing someone already, and a judge found they had a disorder that compels them to commit sexually violent offenses. There are currently 2,269 people in Pennsylvania on this list and, thanks to our office, you’ll know if one of them lives in your neighborhood.
The second case involves a group of people so deeply troubled they cannot safely live in public without putting others at extraordinary risk. Their compulsion to commit sexually violent acts is simply too overwhelming; they are troubled and need help, but Pennsylvanians must be safe from them, too. That’s why they currently live in inpatient mental health facilities where they have daily counseling aimed at managing their compulsions. Every year their mental health is reviewed to determine if they are a threat to public safety. At the time when our office argued this case, there were 57 people in this circumstance, and thanks to this victory they won’t be let out until they no longer pose an extreme risk to the public.
In both cases, our office stood up for survivors, and all Pennsylvanians, to protect public safety.
One of the profound things I saw firsthand during our office’s investigation into the horrific history of sexual abuse and cover-up in the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania is that sexual abuse happens in the dark. Perpetrators exploit our trust through deception and secrecy to prey upon the most vulnerable. That’s why the sex offender registry is so important — it provides the public with knowledge they can use to shine a light in the darkness where offenders thrive.
This knowledge is power for parents, caregivers and survivors alike. Allowing survivors to keep track of the person who abused them can help them rebu...