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Legislature passes new act to protect children from abuse

SPRINGFIELD Rep. Cheryl Coakley-Riveram D-Springfield, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities, is proud to announce her latest legislative success for the Commonwealth's children the passage of "An Act to Further Protect Children" on June 4.

This substantial bill, sponsored by House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, reflects the culmination of her work to protect children from sexual abuse and strongly sentence perpetrators since the beginning of her career in the District Attorney's Child Abuse Unit as a Child and Family Advocate preparing abuse victims for testifying in court through her present State House Chairmanship as she has filed five bills that helped shape this legislation.

The new law includes mandatory sentences for child rapists, including increased minimum mandatory sentences for those who commit subsequent offenses, lengthens a perpetrators's sentence if the crime occurred under certain circumstances such as whether a gun was used in the attack, and creates three new categories of crimes against children for which a perpetrator can be prosecuted.

Coakley-Rivera knows that this bill is tough on assailants and points out that not only did the Attorney General help draft the bill, but that every District Attorney supported it as well.

"We all share a commitment and responsibility for the safety of our children," she said. "We must strive to protect them as much as humanly possible and strongly punish, as this bill does, those who harm them. Not only will these heinous perpetrators be punished, but they will be placed on the state's sex offense register which will protect other innocent children. Since we know that there is a high recidivism rate we want them locked up for as long as possible!"