With the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General in the spotlight this year as a result of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case, sexual abuse is one of the big issues facing both candidates in this year’s race for Attorney General.
Both Democratic candidate Kathleen Kane, former Lackawanna County district attorney, and Republican candidate David Freed, current Cumberland County district attorney, said sexual abuse — especially child sex abuse — will be addressed in a proactive way.
Kane, who served in a child abuse/sexual assault unit as assistant district attorney for Lackawanna County, said she wants to make the Attorney General’s office less reactionary in pursuing child sex abuse cases and take a more proactive approach.
Kane said she has four basic steps to help stop child sex abuse, including eliminating the statute of limitations for reporting sex abuse in Pennsylvania.
People currently have until the age of 50 to bring criminal charges, Freed said.
“You kill a child inside when you abuse them,” Kane said. “There isn’t a statute of limitations on murder. Why should there be for reporting sexual abuse?”
Besides eliminating the statute of limitations, Kane said she wants to eliminate gaps in coverage of sex abuse claims by letting people know they should report to both police and the Child Line and Abuse Registry.
Kane also said she wants to open the records of child sex abuse by enabling the databases between the police and the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare to be shared.
Kane said she also wants to force all state university employees to undergo training so that they know how to identify the effects of child sex abuse and how to report it.
Freed said the Attorney General’s office has the opportunity to do more child sex abuse outreach and education, as they have more resources than the District Attorney’s Offices of Pennsylvania have.
Not only children, but also police and prosecutors need to have training on how to identify and stop child sex abuse, Freed said. Freed also said he wants to put focus on cyber safety in relation to sex abuse, and he wants children to know how to be safe online.
Freed is also in favor of lifting the current statute of limitations for sex abuse in Pennsylvania, saying it often takes a long time for crimes like sexual assaults to go to trial.
The ability for a person who was abused to come forward and report their abuse is an important step to recovery, and it takes time, he said.
Freed also said if the statute of limitations is lifted, he would expect to see some cases come forward where people were barred from filing criminal charges from before because of the statute of limitations.
Kane said she also wants to do a full-scale investigation into why it took three years for Sandusky to be charged.
“I’ve prosecuted a lot of cases, and never has a case like this taken three years,” Kane said. “The grand jury investigation took too long. The Attorney General’s first duty is to get a pedophile off the street.”
Sandusky was convicted in June on 45 counts of sexually abusing boys he met through his charity, The Second Mile. He was sentenced earlier this month to serve 30 to 60 years in prison.
Freed said a grand jury investigation leads to a successful prosecution, and he doesn’t plan at this point to launch a full-scale probe of the Sandusky investigation. Freed said he plans to do a review of the Sandusky investigation documents if elected.