Representative Sherry Roberts Statement on H5757 which strengthens and clarifies penalties for sexual assault

 

State House, Providence, RI – Representative Sherry Roberts offers the following statement on her bill, H5757, heard in House Judiciary, which strengthens and clarifies penalties for persons convicted of sexual assault:

Historically, Rhode Island has raced to compete with other states to be “first” on an entire host of issues that have been deemed a priority, but sadly in my experience, childhood sexual abuse has not been one of them. Furthermore, our priorities seem to have been somewhat misplaced, as there are laws that would put people in jail for longer periods of time for less offensive crimes, than for sexual assault against children. It often feels as if our children have taken the back seat as a priority, compared to many other issues that we have addressed.

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and contrary to what some may even fully realize, I can affirmatively state that we have not created adequate laws to sufficiently protect children from sexual assault, nor have we made it easy for victims to receive justice after such a reprehensible crime -- a crime from which most victims have an extremely difficult time recovering.

Nationally, 44% of rape victims are under the age of 18, with the highest risk of victimization between the ages 12 - 34.  Only 6 in 1000 perpetrators will serve prison time for sexual assault. Rhode Island comes in 5th as one of the highest-ranking states for sexual assaults for school aged children according to the US Department of Education, and 59% of the assaults go unreported to the police. According to DCYF, in 2021, there were 6,938 child maltreatment cases in Rhode Island, with 4.7% of those cases deemed sexual abuse.

I would know this because prosecuting my offender was nearly impossible and it took me a lifetime to figure out how to navigate the system to overcome many obstacles, in search of results. As in my case, even when the victim seeks justice through the court system, the perpetrator can receive a simple slap on the wrist with a reduced sentence to avoid jail time. Make no mistake, this result is not justice. While the admission of guilt is a step in the right direction, the lack of consequence in the form of jail time, absolutely adds insult to injury. In fact, the lack of justice after such an experience, actually has a negative impact and re-victimizes the individual suffering from that deeply traumatizing event.

Today, we have the power to change that with House Bill H5757 by requiring people who are found guilty of 2nd degree sexual assault to be forced to serve a minimum jail sentence behind bars, which cannot be suspended or deferred. After all, the victim never has the ability to “opt-out” from the abuse, nor the lifetime of sufferable consequences.  Hopefully, clarifying the mandated sentence, that include jail time for childhood sexual assault, will help deter predators from destroying a child’s life in the future. If the passage of this bill can help just one child in the state of Rhode Island, then publicly pursuing my perpetrator was worth it.
 

Note:  On November 16, 2022, Representative Sherry Roberts received justice in a 40-year sexual abuse case, where the perpetrator was her stepfather.  He started grooming her at the age of eight and sexually assaulted during her teenage years. Harry Noel Edwards received a 10-year suspended sentence with probation after he agreed to plead no contest to a reduced charge of second-degree sexual assault.

 

 

Donald Trump and President Biden are getting ready for the first debate of the 2024 presidential election. Biden is hunkering down with top aides and advisers at Camp David holding mock debates and isn't expected to make any public appearances until the debate in Atlanta on Thursday. Trump has been holding rallies and meeting with senators and allies to go over policies likely to come up when the two political rivals face off.        The President's son wants a new trial after his gun conviction. Hunter Biden submitted his motion today. He previously submitted an appeal in a Delaware federal court last week, then quickly withdrew it without explanation. Hunter was found guilty for unlawfully purchasing a gun while addicted to drugs. He faces up to 25 years in prison when he's sentenced.       The Supreme Court will hear a challenge to Tennessee's ban on gender-affirming care for minors. The challenge will be taken up by the high court during its next term, reviewing a decision by an appeals court that upheld the law. More than 20 states have restricted gender-affirming care for minors.       Forecasters say the Southern Plains and Southeast can expect sweltering temperatures this week. Some cities like Little Rock, Arkansas and Dallas could hit 100-degrees, with the heat index possibly reaching 110 degrees in some areas. Some high temperature records could be broken today in places like Lincoln, Nebraska and Wichita, Kansas.        A record-breaking number of people are expected to travel for the Fourth of July this year. Triple-A predicts nearly 71 million people will travel 50 miles or more during the holiday travel period, which runs June 29th through July 7th. That's up five-percent from last year.        Pop superstar Singer Justin Timberlake is speaking out about his drunk driving arrest as he resumes his world tour. The singer drew massive applause during a weekend show in Chicago when he told the crowd "it's been a tough week." He was arrested in Sag Harbor, Long Island last Tuesday after allegedly running a stop sign.