New state law punishes caregivers who sexually assault care addicts


Those accused of sexually assaulting the elderly or others in their care will now face the same charges as those who commit the crime against students, inmates and children in institutions.

A new measure, signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf on Monday, was sponsored by State Rep. Carrie Lewis DelRosso, R-33rd.

“During the pandemic and knocking on doors, I recognized that these vulnerable, economically disadvantaged populations had no voice,” DelRosso said.

“This would add additional protections to this vulnerable population. I saw things happening in my district and thought we really needed to step up our game about it in the justice system. I am a proud defender of these citizens.

Before the law was enacted, the only people charged with institutional sexual assault were those who worked with students, inmates and dependent children in a professional setting.

This new offense would be triggered when a guard is accused of having sexual intercourse or indecent contact with a person receiving care in or from a facility, according to lawmakers.

The measure does not criminalize consensual sex between spouses or other intimate partners.

Attorney Rob Peirce, whose Pittsburgh law firms specialize in abuse cases elderlysaid the new law helps protect a population that is often overlooked.

“Not just in Pennsylvania, but across the United States, the older population is often overlooked,” Peirce said. “And in some sense that is understandable because they tend to be in a medical facility or at home and are rarely visited by relatives or relatives.

“But their way of life doesn’t mean they’re immune to crimes committed against people as a whole,” he said.

Peirce said legislation to protect the vulnerable often focuses on children or another group, but not the elderly.

“Often the elderly are overlooked by these sweeping pieces of legislation designed to protect the vulnerable,” he said. “So this new law seems to fill the void that exists.”

Pierce said sex crimes against care dependents are treated harshly because the victims are vulnerable and the perpetrator has power over them.

In many cases, victims also cannot escape the person who abuses them because they cannot leave a facility.

“Sometimes they can’t even talk, so they’re not even able to communicate what’s being done to them,” Peirce said.

A person convicted under the new institutional sexual assault subsection will be charged with a third degree felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison, a fine of up to to $15,000, or both.

Those convicted of institutional sexual assault may also be required to register on the state’s Megan’s Law Sex Offender List.

The new law covers nursing homes, assisted living facilities, private care residences, adult daily living centers and other intuitions that provide care.

The measure applies to caretakers, which include the owner, operator, manager or employee of a facility, according to DelRosso, who sits on the State House Aging & Older Adult Services Committee.

“This law will protect those dependent on care and adequately punish those who use their position of power and authority to sexually exploit them,” she said. “It is imperative that the Commonwealth protects those who cannot protect themselves.”

Lisa J. Perry, Executive Director of Pittsburgh action vs. Gratedsaid the new law is a step in the right direction to protect vulnerable people.

“We know sex offenders are often drawn to our most vulnerable populations,” she said. “And even more, we know that sexual violence does not discriminate. Abusers seek out victims who they perceive as easily manipulated or overpowered and who are unlikely to report the assault – these victims are often care-dependent people.

Perry said the new legislation is part of a solution to protect the state’s most vulnerable residents.

“It is essential to prioritize the safety and well-being of care dependents and the elderly,” she said. “We also know that rape and sexual abuse can be prevented through education, training and communication.

“We need to continue to talk about these issues and work on education and long-term prevention as a way to protect this population.”

Mike Manko, spokesman for Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., said the DA supports efforts to address elder abuse.

“District Attorney Zappala has always been a strong advocate for protecting our senior population, so this latest addition to the law will add to those protections,” Manko said.

“The DA has also used this office to monitor the treatment and standard of care provided in personal care homes and nursing homes and perhaps it is time for the legislature and individual communities to grant more attention to these facilities as our population continues to age. .”


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