Pennsylvania Senate Passes Bill; Expert Testimony in Domestic Violence, Human Trafficking Cases

Posted on September 28th, 2020 in Family Law

In mid-September, Senate Bill 1170 passed, amending the Judicial Code that permits expert witnesses to testify in court cases involving domestic violence and human trafficking in order to provide insight into the crime and how it impacts victims’ behavior following the crime.

Previous code only permitted expert witnesses to testify in cases of sexual violence about the dynamics of the crime, how the victim responds to the crime, and the impact on victims during and after the assault.

“These types of expert witnesses have been crucial to helping jurors understand the tremendous trauma that a sexual assault can have on a victim and how that trauma can affect their behavior and their overall health,” said bill sponsor Senator Wayne Langerholc, Jr. (R-35).

This change in legislation comes as a sign of hope for victims, especially in our current political and health landscape with many victims having been forced to stay in close quarters with their abusers.

Domestic Violence, Human Trafficking Statistics in Pennsylvania

According to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PCADV), more than 10 million people are abused each year in the U.S. Of those numbers, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men experience severe physical violence by an intimate partner.

In the last year alone, 112 Pennsylvanians died as a result of domestic violence incidents with 46% being killed by a current or former partner. As a result of COVID-19, these numbers are expected to be staggered, with more incidents occurring, but fewer victims able to seek help.

Even with these horrific numbers, Pennsylvania still does not have reporting requirements for domestic violence homicides. This means that the numbers gathered by PCADV are rather conservative, only accounting for incidents where arrests were made or the relationship between the victim and perpetrator were clear.

As reported in the 2019 Domestic Violence Fatality Report which reviewed the gender of victims, 42 females and 9 nine males were killed by a current or former partner. In addition, 22 females and 18 males were killed by a relative.

A further look at familial relationships shows that of those fatalities involving family members, sons and fathers have the highest rates of murder, with most conducted by sons in a span from 2010 to 2019.

Counties in Pennsylvania with the highest reports of victim fatalities in 2019 include:

  • Luzerne
  • Bucks
  • Montgomery
  • Dauphin
  • Allegheny

Of these fatalities across Pennsylvania, victims ranged in age, with the most common age bracket being those between 18 to 64 years old. The PCADV does not include child abuse and neglect deaths as they are reported by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. However, if a child’s death is a direct result of domestic violence, they are included in yearly totals.

In addition to these horrific domestic violence reports, another pandemic has hit our region–human trafficking. Considered the second-largest criminal enterprise in the world, in 2017 alone, 210 human trafficking cases were reported in Pennsylvania, jumping to 275 in 2018. In the early months of 2019, 126 cases had been reported and as data becomes available, that number is only expected to grow for cases for the rest of 2019 and 2020.

Victims of these crimes deserve justice and support. As October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we at Kalinoski Law Offices stand with those victims of domestic violence in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties and are prepared to represent them in court.

Get the Advocacy and Respect You Deserve from an Experienced Domestic Violence Attorney

Scranton domestic violence attorney Craig Kalinoski is available to assist in obtaining a PFA order, as well as representing domestic violence and child abuse victims. To arrange a confidential, free initial consultation with a strong family law advocate, contact Kalinoski Law Offices online or call (570) 207-4000.

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