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Philadelphia Weekly | Sandusky Appeal to Rely on Pennsylvania's Antiquated Jury Instruction

(03/15/2013) “This idea that ‘true rape victims’ will report is literally an ancient, widely criticized and rejected presumption,” says Jennifer Gentile Long, director of AEquitas, a D.C.-based, Justice Department-funded organization whose mission is to improve the quality of justice in sexual violence cases. “It’s from the 17th century.”

In real life, victims of childhood sexual assault and rape routinely delay reporting for a variety of reasons. That fact is “clear among legal scholars and experts in the field,” says Long. There’s no evidence that such delay correlates with the veracity of the claim.

Long says attorneys representing sexual assault defendants in Pennsylvania routinely request the line. “It’s a very strong tool of the defense,” she says, noting that Pennsylvania is in the “teeny weeny minority” of states that have similar lines in jury instruction. Reform efforts have been made since at least the 1980s to have the line removed altogether, but have not yet been able to do so.

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