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Pa. law on sex with juveniles said ineffective

December 03, 1996

By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Staff Writer, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Pennsylvania passed a stiffer statutory sexual assault law last year, but the legislation has had little effect so far in preventing teen pregnancies, activists say.

"It is better than the old law but it still stinks," said Marcia Moyer, of the Teen Pregnancy Coalition of Waynesboro.

The law makes having sex with anyone under 13 rape, a first-degree felony punishable by 20 years in prison. People who have sex with 13- to 16-year-olds must be less than four years older or face statutory sexual assault charges, a second-degree felony punishable by 10 years in prison.

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But many men much older than the girls are impregnating them and aren't being punished, Moyer said.

Franklin County Assistant District Attorney John Lisko said at a forum Monday night that the problem is that girls and even their parents sometimes don't want to report the crime or testify because they're embarrassed.

"Teenagers don't want to confide in their parents because they don't want to get in trouble." And even if they do confide in them, parents often don't want police to know, he said.

Lisko said it's almost impossible to bring a case without the cooperation of the victim.

Lisko also said that even if more people were prosecuted, it wouldn't have much of a deterrent effect.

"I'm not sure that the criminal justice system is the way to stop teen pregnancy." He cited driving under the influence laws, which he said keep getting stiffer but haven't stopped repeat offenders.

"Ninety percent think they aren't going to get caught. They don't think about the consequences of their actions."

"It seems like the law has not been going after these people," said Stanley Davis of Waynesboro.

But Lisko said authorities weren't ignoring cases. "If it's reported the police will investigate it and we will prosecute it," he said.

He noted that teachers, doctors, day-care workers and others with contact with children are required to notify authorities of any suspected sexual or other child abuse.

"I think it has gotten much worse over the years," said Kathleen Kaminski, a health teacher at Chambersburg Junior High School. A handful of her students are pregnant, she said, to men as old as 32.

"Pregnancies are occurring at an earlier and earlier age," she said.

"We want these pariahs to be aware that going after little girls is disgraceful, it's disgusting and it's now a crime," she said.

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