PDAA Responds to ACLU’s Latest Attack on Victims of Crime, Public Safety and Prosecutors

October 18, 2019

HARRISBURG, PA — The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association (PDAA) issued the following statement in response to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) most recent attack on victims of crime and public safety in the report More Law, Less Justice:

“The ACLU’s persistent and tired tactic of ignoring crime victims and public safety to advance its goal of eroding confidence in prosecutors is troubling.  Even more troubling is that the ACLU has decided to ignore gaps in the law and changes in technology that make victims of domestic violence and sexual exploitation vulnerable to significant harm and injury.

We prefer to deal in truth and facts.

Specifically, the ACLU’s attack on the recently enacted bi-partisan strangulation law (page 6 of report) and pending bi-partisan legislation to create the crime of sexual extortion (page 7 of report) is unfounded.  Both address serious issues not previously covered by the law.

  • Strangulation Law: Domestic abusers strangle their victims to terrorize and control them, leaving them moments from death.  In strangulation cases, there is often no visible physical injury. Before this law went into effect in 2016, those domestic abusers who strangled their victims were typically charged with assault, but usually could not be held accountable because the law required proof of a visible physical injury.  Without this physical evidence, victims were often left vulnerable to further abuse and in the most tragic cases, death.   Research shows that strangulation is a strong and accurate predictor of future lethality in domestic violence cases.  The strangulation law, strongly supported by domestic violence advocates, holds domestic abusers accountable.

 

  • Sexual Extortion: The ACLU’S criticism of pending bi-partisan legislation creating a crime of sexual extortion is also shortsighted and ignores important nuances of current law. Sexual extortion occurs when a perpetrator coerces sexual images, videos or even acts from a victim and, according to the Department of Justice, is the most significantly growing threat to children.  Pennsylvania’s current extortion law is insufficient to hold perpetrators accountable because it was written before the proliferation of the internet, the cloud, or the web – before the behavior that the proposed legislation is intended to prohibit was possible. The current law does not take into account the deviant, manipulative behavior, or the gravity of a threat to publish naked or sexually explicit images if the victim does not produce sexual images, videos, or even acts. Perpetrators use the internet to gain power and exploit others, and as technology changes, our laws must keep up. The ACLU, therefore, gets it completely wrong when it says that the current rape statute covers this crime.

The criminal justice system is filled with complex issues and nuances that can easily get lost.  But, what isn’t complex is the need to address the law when law-abiding citizens can’t be protected from domestic abusers and sexual predators. Robust dialogue is important; cheap political shots, by contrast, will never change our commitment to keeping our communities safe or protecting crime victims.”

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Contact: Lindsay Vaughan, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, lvaughan@pdaa.org or (717) 238-5416.

 

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