HARRISBURG – A bill to better support children who are victimized as they seek justice has passed the House and is now on its way to the state Senate, said Rep. Clint Owlett (R-Tioga/Bradford/Potter), prime sponsor of the measure.
“Ensuring justice is served is in the best interest of the victim, as well as society,” Owlett said. “By making it a little easier for a young victim to testify against his or her accuser, we improve the chances the perpetrator is appropriately punished and also potentially protect other children from becoming victims of the same criminal.”
House Bill 2342
would amend the state’s Tender Years Hearsay Act, which permits the introduction of hearsay statements concerning violent or sexual offenses. Currently, a victim must be age 12 or younger to allow hearsay statements in the case. Owlett’s bill would increase the maximum age to 16, meaning hearsay statements may be presented from child victims age 16 and under. Allowing the statements would remain at the judge’s discretion.
“This issue was brought to my attention by a local constituent, and I’m proud to have had the opportunity to bring this great idea to Harrisburg and have it approved by the House,” Owlett said.
A fear of testifying is one of the primary reasons many sexual assaults go unreported. Child victims in sexual assault cases who do testify are routinely subjected to long periods of cross examination and are often forced to repeatedly describe the explicit details underlying any assault in front of a jury, the media and the offender. By extending the age from 12 to 16 in the Tender Years Hearsay Act, Owlett said the legislation will provide additional protections to child victims and will ensure that offenders are brought to justice.
Representative Clint Owlett
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Patricia Hippler