Adam Kuklikowski of Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape informs us that the third edition of Benchbook on Crimes of Sexual Violence in Pennsylvania by Superior Court Judge Jack Panella is available and can be found online here.
The book is a guide for judges in handling crimes of sexual violence and addresses the steps of sex offense cases. It also includes detailed information regarding preliminary arraignments and hearings, standards of proof and the setting of bail and bail conditions to ensure the safety of victims and witnesses.
The guidelines are reasonable and the Commonwealth can take pride in its rape laws.
There are some issues, though, namely in Chapter 1 “The Dynamics of Sexual Violence Crimes.” For instance Section 5 “False Reporting” has the subhead “Reality: Statistically, very few people lie about being raped”. Why would that pointless yet prejudicial phrase be in a benchbook for judges? How about “Reality: Statistically, very few people lie about being robbed”? Or “Reality: Statistically, very few people lie about being beaten to where they can’t walk for a month”?
We suspect that the reality is that “statistically” there are more people who lie about being raped than being victims of other crimes. There are female sociopaths out there as well as male ones, after all, and we don’t want to throw out the presumption of innocence.
The subhead for Section 6 is Realty: “The overwhelming majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated against women.” The section then goes on to say “It is difficult to determine the number of male victims of sexual violence for a variety of reasons.” So, how do you know what the reality is Judge Panella? The words in the subhead say “perpetrated against” not “reported by”. That particular bit is sloppy writing and sloppy thinking. And, again, what is the point of even mentioning it?
Otherwise — and we confess that we did not read all 742 pdf pages — it seems a useful and valuable tool.