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Advocates Would Not Have to Testify Under Bipartisan Bill Meant to Protect Victims

a photo of Pam Prisbylla
Pam Prisbylla testifies while surrounded by backers of the sexual assault testimony privilege bill.

Advocates for sexual abuse victims can be required to report and testify in court about the cases they are handling – unlike doctors and lawyers. Some victims of sexual abuse say have been retaliated against 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 said. 

Advocates say requiring testimony from counselors can expose sexual assault survivors to threats and intimidation. But Louis Tobin with 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, "I think there’s probably a way to protect them in those situations without limiting the introduction of evidence in a judicial proceeding," Tobin said.

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