Thursday, January 21, 2016

Senate passes bill protecting state’s most vulnerable

The state Senate passed a bill aimed at better protecting child victims of repeated abuse but a 36-0 vote today.

Many children who have experienced repeated abuse over time, referred to as a continuous course of conduct, have difficulty remembering the details of each specific incident of abuse, said Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville. The legislation, known as Senate Bill 60, would accommodate a child’s more generalized testimony when a tragedy of repeated abuse occurs.

“This bill is to protect … young victims or victims with intellectual or developmental disabilities who can’t articulate when something happened to them,” said Westerfield, who introduced the legislation.

Westerfield said he filed the bill after the Kentucky Supreme Court last year overturned the conviction of a man accused of sexually assaulting his 6-year-old stepdaughter in the case Ruiz v. Commonwealth. In Ruiz, the child victim testified that she was sodomized and abused  up to three times a week by her stepfather while her mother was on military deployment, but her inability to distinguish between the events helped lead to the case being overturned.

A companion piece of legislation, known as House Bill 109, passed out of the state House of Representatives by a 91-0 vote this past Tuesday.