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 August 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. Pennsylvania is the last state to make this change.
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.
Another bill, known as Act 126, was signed into law this summer requiring schools and independent contractors of school entities to provide three hours of training every five years to employees who have direct contact with children on recognizing and reporting child abuse.