What is West Virginia Senate Bill 616?

BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — The way the public may view criminal complaints involving sex crimes is changing to protect victims.

West Virginia Senate Bill 616 went into effect in early June. The bill aims to help victims of sexual abuse and assault remain anonymous. But a common misconception surrounding the details of the bill is that it protects the accused.

Raleigh County Assistant District Attorney Chad Lilly says the bill only affects the victims – not the defendant.

“It’s offered to protect victims,” ​​Lilly said. “And what it does is it requires the names of the victims to be indicated by initials instead of the full name.”

It also does more than shield the victim from the public, it helps future cases to hopefully encourage victims to come forward.

Scott Miller, executive director of the Just for Kids Child Advocacy Center in Beckley, has shared a shocking statistic about children who come forward about their abuse.

“Only one in ten children talk about their abuse,” Miller said. “So last year we did about 300 interviews. If that stat is correct, there are actually 3,000 children who may have been abused in Raleigh and Fayette County.

Detective Nicole Pinardo, who primarily deals with sex crimes at the Beckley Police Department, said she has seen an increase in sexual assault cases.

“In total, when it comes to abuse and crimes on the internet, I would say it has unfortunately increased, but per month, I think last month, I had seven cases,” Pinardo said.

Miller said he hopes this bill will make it safer for people who have been sexually assaulted or abused to have the courage to come forward now.

Norman D. Briggs