Press Release | SCVNews.com
State Sen. Fran Pavley announced her intent Tuesday to introduce legislation to help protect developmentally disabled victims of sex crimes in California’s state developmental centers and state hospitals.
Pavley, whose senate district includes about half of the Santa Clarita Valley, is working with Disability Rights California, the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA), The Arc of California and United Cerebral Palsy to introduce legislation to require that sexual abuse victims within the state developmental centers and state psychiatric hospitals receive timely forensic medical examinations.
“We must put an end to the repeated sexual abuse of men and women with developmental disabilities,” says Pavley, “Residents of large institutions, like developmental centers and state hospitals, are particularly vulnerable because their isolation and reliance on staff.”
A recent report by California Watch found 36 accusations of molestation and rape of residents by caretakers in the last four years at California’s state institutions for the developmentally disabled. However, the Office of Protective Services, the police force at California’s five developmental centers, failed to order a single rape exam during three of the four years.
At most other police departments, use of a “rape kit” by trained forensic examiners for alleged sexual assault victims is considered routine in order to collect evidence for prosecution. Without physical evidence, it can be nearly impossible to solve sex crimes. This is especially true when the victims are people with severe communication and/or intellectual disabilities, who may have difficulty providing testimony or identifying perpetrators.
“We applaud Senator Pavley’s leadership in introducing legislation to protect men and women with developmental disabilities in these institutions,” says Sandra Henriquez, Executive Director of CALCASA. “We must mandate effective policies and protocols for vulnerable populations to ensure all individuals are safe and free from sexual violence.”
“We are pleased that Senator Pavley is looking into this serious issue,” says Leslie Morrison, Director of Investigations for Disability Rights California. “Residents of our state institutions are among the most vulnerable and isolated from society. This intended legislation is a move toward transparency in our developmental centers and state hospitals by getting residents access to forensic medical exams by outside investigators.”
According to California Watch, it is estimated that 80 percent of women with developmental disabilities have been sexually abused at some point in their lives, many of them repeatedly. In one recent case, a Development Center patient who had previously reported sexual abuse became pregnant and gave birth, but police inaction allowed the alleged perpetrator to disappear.
Pavley has been a consistent advocate for the developmentally disabled community, and has authored a wide variety of bills related to disability services. This includes including co-authoring last year’s SB 946, which requires health plans and health insurance policies to cover behavioral health therapy for individuals with pervasive developmental disorders or autism.
In October, The Arc California and United Cerebral Palsy named Sen. Pavley their Legislator of the Year for 2012. Her work on behalf of the developmentally disabled community goes back to her time in the Assembly, when she worked to protect funding for programs for the developmentally disabled and carried legislation to improve autism instruction in California’s public schools.
Pavley has also carried several measures to increase penalties for sex crimes. This includes SB 179 in 2011, which increases close supervision periods of offenders classified as sexually violent predators (SVPs) by mandating that they serve all of their required parole upon release.