Politics

Pennsylvania legislator Louise Bishop, 78, admits to being raped as a child

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State Rep. Louise Williams Bishop admitted to being raped as a child, and explained that is part of her motivation for toughening mandatory reporting laws in Pennsylvania. (Photo from Bishop's website.)

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In the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky's sexual assault scandal at Penn State, the Pennsylvania legislator held a public meeting to discuss what should be done to safe-guard children.

In the middle of the meeting, though, 78-year-old Louise Williams Bishop made news of her own by announcing that she, too, was a victim of sexual abuse. Bishop, a Democratic State Representative, said her stepfather raped her decades ago, while she was growing up.

"I found out when I discovered someone in bed with me. They were doing a little more than feeling and touching. Because they'd been such a friend, I didn't know how to react. I was afraid," she said at the meeting.

Bishop said she was afraid of the reaction her sisters would have, afraid of her mother's reaction, and afraid that her grandfather would have shot the man and gone to jail.

"I lived with that fear for all these years," she said.

It felt good to talk about it, Bishop said, but she still feels shaken by the entire episode. In fact, though she's been a minister and public figure for 50 years, she said she's never been as afraid of speaking as she was when she revealed the sexual assault.

"I still feel somewhat nervous to talk about it, but I know it's something where other lives are at stake."

Most victims later in life don't find a way to make a living in life, because they're struggling with how to deal with it, she explained.

Now Bishop is trying to get laws changed so other kids don't have to live with the knowledge of a sexual assault. And to better prosecute offenders.

She'd like to change to law to require anyone with knowledge of abuse to report the crimes directly to police, rather than merely to a supervisor. She'd also like to create a special state office to handle these types of complaints, plus she'd like to eliminate the statute of limitation on abuse crimes.

But she's facing an uphill battle, with the Catholic Church and the Pennsylvania Governor saying this might be an overly broad overhaul.

Bishop isn't detered.

"I'm going to talk about it as long as I can, as much as I can, as often as I can, at every place I can," she said. "Children deserve an opportunity to be able to talk about it in safety."

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