Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Senators Eichelberger and Rafferty Target Sexual Predators with New Bill

Challenge health care practitioners to report evidence of abuse or be held liable 
Harrisburg, PA - Tuesday, February 19, 2008, Senator John H. Eichelberger, Jr. (R-30) and Senator John C. Rafferty, Jr. (R-44), today announced their intention to introduce a bill to strengthen laws against child rapists and sexual predators. 
The 'Child Rapist and Sexual Predator Detection Act' strengthens reporting requirements for health care providers who discover evidence of sexual abuse, such as sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy, in girls age 12 or younger. 
"Some health care providers have found a way to circumvent the current mandatory reporting requirement by failing to report treatment of children under the age of 13. It is illegal in Pennsylvania to have sex with a child age 12 or under, so any child of this age being given any form of prenatal care is presenting evidence that a felonious sex crime has been committed.  Some health care providers are blatantly disregarding the law and exposing children to continued sexual abuse, " Senator Eichelberger says. 
The bill would require health care practitioners to prove that a child is 13 years old or older by obtaining credible written evidence.  If the child is under the age of 13, reporting to the Child Predator Unit of the Attorney General's Office and the county child service agency would be required.  Any individual who willfully fails to comply with a requirement in this legislation could face charges ranging from second and third degree misdemeanors to a felony.  The health care practitioner could also be held civilly liable for any damages suffered by the child from the continued rape or sexual abuse caused by their failure to report this information. 
"Through this legislation we hope to curtail or prevent those individuals who prey on children from going undetected.  There needs to be some accountability for health care providers who choose not to confirm that the pregnant girl sitting in front of them has not been victimized.  These providers must undertake their best efforts to do this.  Overlooking these cases is completely unacceptable.  Our legislation is designed to protect the children who might be too afraid to speak up about the circumstances of their situation," Rafferty said. 
Senators Eichelberger and Rafferty are currently circulating a memo stating their intent to sponsor this legislation and are seeking co-sponsors in the Senate. 

Contact: Jason E. High