Bill aims to combat sexually violent predators

Karen’s Law is named after survivor Karen Widdoss-Milewski. As a 16-year-old living in Wissinoming in the 1990s, she was strangled, stabbed, raped and left for dead by an ex-boyfriend.

Taking a stand: State Sen. John Sabatina has introduced Senate Bill 1023, known as Karen’s Law, which would limit the frequency of parole applications for sexually violent predators. Source: Senator John P. Sabatina’s office

State Sen. John Sabatina (D-5th dist.) recently led advocates and survivors of violent crime to rally for the passage of Senate Bill 1023, known as Karen’s Law.

Named after Karen Widdoss-Milewski, a survivor of violent crime, Sabatina introduced Karen’s Law to limit the parole re-application process for sexually violent predators.

“In my time with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, I witnessed how the justice system does not always protect victims of crime after a perpetrator is convicted,” Sabatina said. “Karen’s Law will provide protections to victims of sexually violent crime and combat the re-victimization of survivors.”

Widdoss-Milewski, the survivor behind Karen’s Law, attended the rally.

“We often think it ends with a conviction and sentencing. However, people are missing the rest of the story. Survivors across Pennsylvania are being re-victimized year after year under the current setup,” she said.

SB 1023 would limit the frequency of parole applications for sexually violent predators. The Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole would not be required to review parole applications of those convicted of sexually violent crimes until three years after their most recent parole application. Under current law, there is a one-year wait between the ability to re-apply for parole for those convicted of sexually violent crimes.

“The current parole process does not effectively address the trauma experienced by survivors of sexual violence when they are brought to face their attackers,” Sabatina said. “Senate Bill 1023 addresses the emotional needs of victims and lessens re-victimization.”

Additional supporters of Karen’s Law who spoke at the rally were Jennifer Storm from the Pennsylvania Office of Victim Advocate and Gary Gregory from the Every Great Reason Foundation.

Karen’s Law boasts bipartisan support in the Senate and is also supported by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Radar Project, the Women’s Center of Montgomery County and Woman Organized Against Rape. Widdoss-Milewski was recently featured on the syndicated television show Crime Watch Daily. She told her story to Kim Goldman, sister of Ron Goldman, whom most people believe was murdered by O.J. Simpson.

As a 16-year-old living in Wissinoming in the 1990s, Widdoss-Milewski was strangled, stabbed, raped and left for dead by an ex-boyfriend, Leonard Tilton. Police arrested Tilton as he was about to jump from the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge. He pleaded guilty to rape and aggravated assault and was sentenced to 15 to 40 years in prison, where he remains. ••