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House, Senate bills key to greater protection for child victims of abuse

Two bills filed with the Kentucky General Assembly, House Bill 109, sponsored by Rep. Joni Jenkins, and Senate Bill 60, sponsored by Sen. Whitney Westerfield, would provide greater – and much needed – protections for child victims of repeated abuse and deserve speedy passage.

Currently, courts in Kentucky require definitive information, such as a specific date, for a jury to determine guilt in at least one specific incidence of child abuse. The challenge is that while young children generally can remember acts or events, they often have trouble remembering the exact date and place the offense occurred.

“It is difficult for victims, especially children, to differentiate the assaults by time or place because they occur with such horrific frequency and in the same setting,” said newly elected Kentucky Atty. Gen. Andy Beshear last week, testifying before a legislative committee about the need to close legal loophole in abuse cases.

The legislation would create “a continuous course of conduct” law allowing children (and vulnerable adults) to testify to a pattern of abuse without being penalized for not remembering the exact date and place it occurred.

On Friday, the House approved HB 109 on a 91-0 vote and goes to the Senate for consideration. The Senate version, SB 60 awaits action in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

We join Beshear and others, including Kentucky Youth Advocates, to encourage legislators swiftly to approve these important and necessary protections, and to enact them into applicable law as soon as possible.

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