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Storm steps down as Victim Advocate

  • Sam Dunklau
Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm has been outspoken about high-profile cases involving survivors of sexual abuse.

 Tim Tai / Philadelphia Inquirer

Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm has been outspoken about high-profile cases involving survivors of sexual abuse.

(Harrisburg) — Acting state Victim Advocate Jennifer said she’ll resign her post this coming Friday, following a controversial months-long Senate re-confirmation process.

“While the governor has been incredible and gracious in allowing me to remain in the position as acting, it just does not feel right and I think it’s time for me to kind of move on and do some different work,” Storm said Friday.

The state Senate denied Storm another term by a vote of 32 to 18 in mid-November. Supporters of the move said Storm is both unqualified and under investigation by the State Ethics Committee.

At the time, the committee was investigating whether Storm improperly produced a documentary and book during her term. The investigation is ongoing as of January, but Storm said she believes she’ll be exonerated.

Storm criticized the move by that group of state senators as an effort to “discredit” and “defame” her.

“I know that I upheld the duties of my office with fidelity and honesty and dignity, and I hope the next person stepping in knows that they too can do that,” Storm said. “Unfortunately, that may mean that this position is a one-term position.”

Since she was first nominated to the position in 2013 by former Gov. Tom Corbett, Storm has led the Office of Victim Advocate, which provides support and services for crime victims. During her tenure, she said she worked to assert the rights and wishes of Pennsylvania victims of Roman Catholic clergy abuse.

After the Senate vote, Storm alleged former Senate President Joe Scarnati took issue with that work because of his connections to the Catholic Church. In a statement earlier last year, Scarnati denied any of his legislative decisions were influenced by lobbying interests.

Storm also pointed to her criticism of Scarnati’s stance against legislation that would have removed the statute of limitations for survivors of sexual abuse, as well as another bill that would have allowed survivors of clergy sexual abuse to sue the Catholic church.

The GOP-led state Senate has tried to mandate that whoever represents crime victims as the Victim Advocate must be a licensed attorney. Pennsylvania’s Crime Victims Act, passed in 1998, does not explicitly list that requirement. 

Storm argues the proposed change was an attempt to personally disqualify her from serving another term. A document from the Office of Victim Advocate responding to the effort states a legal degree is a “rarity among victims advocates,” and is not required under federal or state law.

Chief among the arguments Democrats made in ousting Storm was that she did not give the same attention to shooting victims in Philadelphia as she did to victims of other crimes.

Storm rebuked that characterization during a Smart Talk appearance, arguing their opposition had more to do with her stance against Sen. Sharif Street’s (D-Philadelphia County) bill that would allow certain convicted murderers parole eligibility after 35 years.

Storm said she intends to continue her career as a consultant for victim services firms.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s office said her replacement will be announced “in the near future.”

“Jennifer’s empathy, dedication, and ferocious commitment to justice made her an ideal advocate for victims and survivors throughout the commonwealth,” Wolf said in a statement. “I extend my thanks to Jennifer for all she has done to ease the burdens of victims and survivors, and to address the challenges they face.”

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