Bill Would Shield Sexual Assault Crisis Counselors From Being Forced To Testify

Sep 13, 2019

Advocates for sexual abuse survivors can be required to report and testify in court about the cases they are handling – unlike doctors and lawyers. Some survivors of sexual abuse say they’ve experienced retaliation when that happens.

A bipartisan bill would grant those advocates privacy so they wouldn’t have to divulge that information.

Sexual assault survivor Pam Prisbylla chokes back tears as she explains why conversations shared with certain crisis counselors must remain private. 

“This is exactly the support sexual assault victims need from being rendered powerless," Prisbylla says.

Advocates say requiring testimony from counselors can expose sexual assault survivors to threats and intimidation.

But Louis Tobin, the executive director for the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, which has opposed similar legislation in the past, says putting crisis counselors on the record is important. As far as retribution, he says that shouldn't be an issue.

“I think there’s probably a way to protect them in those situations without limiting the introduction of evidence in a judicial proceeding," Tobin says.

The bill is being co-sponsored by state Reps. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) and Dick Stein (R-Norwalk), and state Sen. John Ekland (R-Munson).

The Ohio Alliance To End Sexual Violence says Ohio is one of 14 states that does not provide testimonial privileges to qualified advocates.