Shrewsbury-area district judge case highlights reluctance to report


When the alleged perpetrator of a sexual crime is an authority figure in a community, a victim can fear he or she won't be believed when making abuse allegations, experts said.

The case against Shrewsbury-area District Judge Jeffrey Scott Joy — who's facing various charges after two women alleged he had inappropriate sexual contact with them — fits the scenario in which victims could be reluctant to report misconduct, experts said.

"It can be hard when there's someone in a position of power," said Donna Greco, advocacy and research director with the Enola-based National Sexual Violence Research Center. "It can be difficult for the victim to come forward and get help."

If an abuser is a prominent figure in the community, police or officials may be skeptical of the victim's allegations, she said, and often reports of abuse aren't made to police because victims may fear they wouldn't be believed.

People rarely fabricate abuse, Greco said.

"Most people don't report what happened because of victim blaming," she said.

Grooming: In Joy's case, a second female alleged victim emerged after an initial set of charges against the judge were made public.

In the first set of charges, police allege Joy inappropriately touched and licked a woman whose boyfriend had appeared in Joy's courtroom.

The second set of allegations stem from incidents starting last December, but police said the second woman waited to make her report until three days after the first charges were made public.

The second women alleged that Joy offered to vacate her court fines and expunge her criminal record if she modeled lingerie for him, according to charging documents.

People in poverty are often targets for abusers who have been known as someone offering to help in some way, said Kristen Houser, spokeswoman for Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.

An abuser may offer financial support in exchange for sexual favors, known as "grooming," Houser said.

She said the behaviors of which Joy is accused — such as offering to buy artwork or to help a woman get her son on a baseball team — amount to grooming.

"What we know about sex exploitation and sexual assault, they (abusers) do look for ways to exploit," she said. "Is this a carrot? Am I being led to something I don't want to do?"

Grooming isn't only offering financial support. It also can include giving gifts or offering to help a potential victim.

Cosby allegations: Though it's difficult to tell when someone is genuinely offering assistance versus when they have an ulterior motive, experts said it's best to trust one's instincts.

"Whenever something feels uncomfortable, trust your gut and call someone," Greco said.

One way to prevent sexual assaults is to talk about it publicly.

Houser cited as an example allegations that comedian Bill Cosby, 78, sexually abused about two dozen women over five decades. Houser said there are times when abuse is known but never talked about publicly or reported to police.

Cosby and his attorneys have denied some of the allegations, and no criminal charges have been filed against him.

"Every time you keep quiet, it's giving someone an opportunity to abuse," she said. "When you hear whispers, not just one, that's worth looking in to."

Help for victims: Several organizations help victims through the process of reporting abuse and get them help they need.

"There is free, 100 percent confidential support," Houser said. "It's a nice way to get support."

In York County, one such organization is the YWCA of York's Victim Assistance Center, which provides crisis intervention, information, counseling and support to victims of sexual violence or other violent crimes. The center helps victims of all ages.

The York County Children's Advocacy Center and the York County Office of Children Youth & Families also provide assistance to abused children.

In the United States, 63 percent of women say they have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives and 1 in 5 have been raped, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

— Reach Greg Gross at