York County comes together on domestic violence 'epidemic'


Imagine a childhood virus that is known to knock 20 years off of your life expectancy. Everyone from health care experts to legislators and social service agencies would be hard at work looking for preventions and cures for this public health hazard. Why don’t we look at violence and its victims the same way?

That was one of the pointed questions put forth at an August town hall in York. The Marsy’s Law for Pennsylvania team attended the event sponsored by the York County Task Force on Domestic Violence, the York County Alliance Against Sexual Violence and the York County Human Trafficking Task Force.

As sad as it was to hear, York County seems to be an unfortunate leader in terms of family violence. It ranks third among Pennsylvania counties in child abuse referrals and third in investigated child abuse allegations. York County also annually ranks third or fourth in domestic violence-related homicides.

Domestic violence affects more than just the person who is physically injured.

Jessica Castle, community education director for YWCA York, discussed a long-term study on adverse childhood experiences (ACE) that found stressful experiences early in life, ranging from child abuse and neglect to divorced parents and exposure to violence, can lead to health issues later in life and an earlier death. The study found that 67 percent of children had at least one ACE, while one in 10 children tallied three or more.

Considering the consequences, Castle compared the exposure to violence to experiencing a physical illness.

“We need to think of violence as a public health epidemic,” she told the town hall.

Marsy’s Law for Pennsylvania couldn’t agree more. With such evidence showing the long-term consequences victims and their families face, it is clear that they deserve a seat at the criminal justice table. But crime victims in Pennsylvania have no guarantee that they will be included in any criminal proceedings involving the accused and they have no ironclad protections from repeated victimization by an overloaded criminal justice system.

Marsy’s Law would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to guarantee crime victims have an equal level of legal protection to those who are accused and convicted. It already has passed the state House and Senate. Because it amends the constitution, it must gain legislative approval again next year and then be approved by voters in a referendum before it can take effect.

Marsy’s Law will guarantee victims and their families have the right to:

  • Receive information about their rights and available services
  • Receive notification of proceedings and major developments in the criminal case
  • Receive timely notifications of changes to the offender’s custodial status
  • Be present at court proceedings and provide input to the prosecutor before a plea agreement is finalized
  • Be heard at plea or sentencing proceedings or any process that may result in the offender’s release
  • Restitution

Mary’s Law for Pennsylvania is grateful for the support of the York County community and its efforts to bring attention to the needs of crime victims.

Special thanks for those volunteering their time at the town hall:

  • Amy Lutz, Fox 43 anchor
  • Jessica Castle, community education director for YWCA York
  • Jay Ostrich, district director for Congressman Scott Perry
  • Michelle Shae, director of the YWCA Hanover Safe Home
  • April Troshak, group facilitator with SpiriTrust Lutheran Domestic Abuse Solutions
  • State Rep. Stan Saylor from York County
  • Terry Clark, executive director at York County Children, Youth and Families
  • Deb Harrison, executive director of the York County Child Advocacy Center
  • Dave Sunday, district attorney for York County
  • Tracy O’Brien, coordinator for SANE Nurse Program

To read more about the town hall, here is a York Dispatch article.